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Spain Interrupted: Our not-so-excellent adventure

Spain Interrupted: Our not-so-excellent adventure

Old Mar 26th, 2020, 09:43 AM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 3,713
think it was worth it just for that first dinner. I think sharing tapas might be over.
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 12:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2014
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We visited Barcelona in 2010, and we didn't need timed tickets for any attractions!!! We visited all the top sites, Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Battlo, La Pedrera, etc., We had to wait in line for one hour at SF; everything else was maybe a 15-20 minute wait. Walked right into Parc Guell. My, how times have changed.
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 12:56 PM
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Karen -

I've read that they started charging for the Monumental zone in 2013 as a way of controlling crowds.
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 01:19 PM
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Whenever we went [and I''m pretty certain it was before 2010 but I can't tell you how long before] there were no timed tickets for the Sagrada Familia and we just walked in. As for the other Gaudi buildings I honestly don't remember whether they had timed tickets or not.

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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 01:26 PM
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It was between 1993 and 1996. I have a 1994 Michelin Guide that we used, Spanish Laguage Version so must have bought it there.

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 26th, 2020 at 01:37 PM.
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 02:30 PM
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What a trip!
But what a wonderful time on the ground...so far...
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 02:43 PM
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I’m so glad you had those 2 great days! And that chocolate croissant looks obscenely tempting! But, like others, I hear the drumbeats of doom marching closer!

Looking forward to the rest...
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 03:43 PM
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Thanks for sharing. Wonderful pictures, but what a start. You had some good times. But I read this with dread and curiosity so I'm hooked.
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 04:16 PM
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This is like a thriller, even though we all know more or less how it ends!
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 05:20 PM
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I am enjoying your story! Thank you for sharing....glad you had a great day on this day.
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 05:30 PM
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The sh!t is about to hit the fan.
Nelson is online now  
Old Mar 26th, 2020, 07:27 PM
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Popping in for the ride - or no ride!

I love Barcelona.
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Old Mar 26th, 2020, 10:30 PM
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I've always loved your travel moxie! I've loved your adventures, your attitude, your research, your flexibility, ....and of course have always loved how you share the beautiful photos and interesting tales that result.

I hate that you already had a bad start and hate what I know is coming... I know you won't let it dampen your Wanderlust though!

As always, thanks so much for sharing!

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Old Mar 27th, 2020, 05:51 AM
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You're very kind swandav!

Thanks to everyone for the comments and for joining us on this crazy trip.
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Old Mar 27th, 2020, 07:43 AM
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I need that chocolate croissant. I'm glad you were able to visit the Sagrada Familia and had a nice day.
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Old Mar 27th, 2020, 08:18 AM
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March 12 –

A lot had happened during the night…

I woke to several ominous messages…one from our Air BNB host, advising us that the US had banned all travel from Europe with the exception of the UK and suggesting that we call the American Consulate in Barcelona.

Donna was still snoozing, so I called the number they thoughtfully provided, not knowing what I was going to say or what I expected they’d say in return, but never finding out as the call went unanswered (we found out later that the Consulate had closed two days prior).

I also got a text from a friend in Texas asking how long we planned to stay in Spain, followed by a grimace-faced emoji, and a text from Bill advising that Trump had banned travel to the US from 26 European countries, effective midnight March 13, but the details were fuzzy.

This news sent me on a cell phone search frenzy; the TV in our Air BNB didn’t have any English stations, so no help there.

I found no information on our respective airline sites and no info on Expedia; unsurprisingly since the announcement was new and as clear as mud.

As the morning wore on, more info slowly filtered in; the ban didn’t apply to US citizens.

We decided that we’d monitor the situation closely and go about our holiday until we knew more.

So, once Donna had finished her morning preparation process, we had coffee and pastry and then caught a taxi to Casa Mila/La Pedrera (€6).

We’d had good intentions of using the Metro in Barcelona as often as possible, but we’d yet to sort out the logistics. Taking taxis had proven easy and inexpensive and in light of the Coronavirus, probably a better idea.

We tried to book tickets online four or five times (€4 each discount) but could never get the transaction to go through, although we were given a confirmation number. So, we just rocked up to the line-free ticket booth, showed the confirmation number and were given the discount on the spot (€24, €18.50 senior).

From La Pedrera’s website:

In the year 1900, Passeig de Grŕcia was the most important avenue in Barcelona. It was here that iconic buildings began to spring up, and the finest theatres and cinemas, and the most exclusive shops, restaurants and cafés opened.

It was also the boulevard on which the wealthiest and most ambitious members of the bourgeoisie decided to build their homes, vying with each other in a bold and exhibitionist manner by commissioning the most eminent architects of the day to undertake their projects.

In 1905, Pere Milŕ and Roser Segimon married. Attracted by the fame of Passeig de Grŕcia, they purchased a detached house with garden situated on a plot measuring 1,835 square metres and they commissioned the architect Antoni Gaudi to build their new property. The main floor of this new building, Casa Mila, was to be their home and they would rent out the other apartments.

La Pedrera is also one of the main settings in Dan Brown’s novel, Origin. In the novel the attic is turned into the apartment of a multimillionaire.

Up to this point I’d been a bit perplexed by Gaudi, but I was beginning to appreciate his vision and the inspiration he found in nature.

While on the roof, I received a text from Bill advising us that the US was going to require travelers from Europe to return through select airports and that DHS would issue a notice in the next 48 hours. It was difficult to digest this news while taking in the views from the rooftop, all the while surrounded by those Star Wars-like sculptures.

Roof of La Pedrera

Roof of La Pedrera

Roof of La Pedrera

Roof of La Pedrera

Views from roof of La Pedrera

Roof of La Pedrera

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

After getting our fill of Casa Mila/La Pedrera, we realized we were a stone’s throw from La Rita, a restaurant on my wish list. I’d read they had very good food and inexpensive lunch specials.

We followed the GPS, passing several other promising restaurants along the way. We arrived at 3:00 and found the restaurant absolutely heaving, not a single table available, which we took as a good sign.

We stood near the door for about 15 or 20 minutes until a table cleared and we were seated. The staff was flat out, doing their best to serve, clear tables and seat those of us waiting. By the time we were seated there were 4-5 other people behind us in line.

La Rita was offering two specials. Donna chose the €20.95 special; chicken croquettes salad, grilled salmon with hollandaise, potatoes and asparagus, and the Crčmebrűlée Catalan for desert. She said the salmon was excellent and that this was her favorite meal of the trip.

I opted for the €11.65 special; chicken croquettes salad, grilled chicken breast with fries, and nougat ice cream with burnt Catalan cream and chocolate. In hindsight I should have chosen the chicken tikka masala, but so it goes.

Both specials came with wine, hers with bread, water and coffee. We agreed that La Rita had the best cappuccinos either one of us had had in recent memory. A very good choice, €36. We were the last people to leave the restaurant, just after four.

La Rita

La Rita

La Rita

We were in the neighborhood so we decided to walk over to Casa Batlló, another of Gaudi’s masterpieces on Donna’s wish list. The Casa is a remodel of a previously built house designed by Gaudi for wealthy aristocrat Josep Batlló. He lived in the lower two floors of the building and the upper floors were rented out as apartments. Colors and shapes found in the sea were the inspiration for this home.

As we stood outside, we tried to purchase tickets from our phones so we could get the online discount, but once again, neither of our transactions would go through. The website advised us that Casa Batlló would be closing tomorrow, due to the Coronavirus. So much for ‘no Coronavirus in Barcelona’! It was now or never.

There were quite a few people standing around outside Casa Batlló, some on guided tours, some just taking photos and others waiting for their timed entrances. It wasn’t crazy busy, but business was brisk.

We decided to join the line and asked if we could purchase tickets on the spot; yes we could, no worries. We told the cashier that we’d had trouble booking online and once again we were offered the discount. We both purchased the 22 blue ticket, which gave us access to the audio guide.

As we entered the building we were offered a squirt of hand sanitizer. Inside, employees were busy cleaning handrails and stairway banisters.

Once again I was wowed by Gaudi. I was really taken with this gorgeous building; the mosaics, the windows, it was fascinating. We spent close to two hours here and then quite some time in the very nice attached gift shop (La Pedrera had a gift shop too, but I liked this one better).

We also spoke to a young woman working there; she told us that Sagrada Familia was closing tomorrow due to the Coronavirus. She also told us about a church nearby in the Gothic Quarter and suggested we go see it immediately because it would probably be closing too. Unfortunately, neither of us could understand which church she was talking about.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

Roof, Casa Batlló

Roof, Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

It was getting dark when we left Casa Batlló, which was now beautifully lit.

Casa Batlló after dark

Instead of trying to figure out which church the young woman had been referring to, we decided to wander the Block of Discord and the upscale shopping district of Passeig de Grŕcia.

People were out in force enjoying the nice weather; other than a few face masks and frequent hand washing, the virus didn't seem to be having much of an affect.

Next door to Casa Batlló was Casa Amatller by Puig I Cadafalch, a contemporary of Gaudi. But that isn’t what caught my eye, the chocolate shop near the entrance to the casa did. We went in to investigate and discovered Faborit Casa Amatller. The minute I saw the molten chocolate being dispensed I knew I had to have some. So we placed an order – Xocolata classic for me, Xocolata Frappe with whipped cream for Donna (€8.30).

Oh my…I’d met my match. This was too much chocolate even for me.

Faborit Casa Amatller

Faborit Casa Amatller

The café was busy and I had to wonder if people were a bit frantic to get in one last chocolate fix before the world came to an end. As we sat lapping up chocolate and people watching, I received a text from Bill advising that Pence had announced that visitors returning from Europe would have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and would be funneled through 13 US airports. DFW was on the list, DEN was not.

We continued our wander, depressed with the uncertainly of what lay ahead, but realizing that our trip was going to be short-circuited.

I was taken with the beautiful lit fountains that were in the center of the intersections; begging for a photo but impossible to shoot without walking into the middle of the street.

We popped into a few stores and then decided to find a grocery store; locating one in the basement of the Centro commercial plaza.

Here, signs of the escalating Coronavirus situation were much more apparent. The store was heaving with people. The paper product shelves were empty. This was beginning to look very familiar.

Tension was in the air. We joined the fray….suddenly deciding we needed some Bombay Sapphire to drown our sorrows.

Donna had been talking about something called Nordic Blue Mist ever since she’d read about it in maitaitom’s Spain trip report. She was determined to try it. So imagine our surprise when we found it in this very grocery store. Perfect timing. I’ve since skimmed Tom’s Insane for Spain, but couldn’t find the reference, a little help Tom?

We’d just about given up on finding any limes, when I spotted three lonely limes in the corner of a fruit display. Score!

We caught a taxi back to the apartment (8.40) where we settled in for blue G&Ts and a catch up with spouses regarding what the heck was going on back home and right here in Spain.

To be continued…
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Old Mar 27th, 2020, 08:45 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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"We decided that we’d monitor the situation closely and go about our holiday until we knew more."

That's about all you can do at this stage. The tension building is unsettling.
That cup of chocolate does look amazing, meeting your match or not!

I have to thank maitaitom for recommending Blue Nordic in his trip report a few years back.

Great report and photos!
Nelson is online now  
Old Mar 27th, 2020, 09:20 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Probably viewing Gaudi with the surreal circumstances is quite fitting. Glad you have seen some of the highlights of BCN. Looking forward to waht I am sure will e an adventure getting home.
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Old Mar 27th, 2020, 09:46 AM
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Lovely evening photo!
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Old Mar 27th, 2020, 09:54 AM
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Oh, how I wish they sold that blue tonic here. Memories, light the corners of my mouth. Toledo 2015

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