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Trip Report 7: days Barcelona, 4 days Sevilla, 2 days Madrid. Includes Festas de Santa Eulalia and Carnival Parade in Barcelona

Trip Report 7: days Barcelona, 4 days Sevilla, 2 days Madrid. Includes Festas de Santa Eulalia and Carnival Parade in Barcelona

Old Mar 13th, 2004, 06:35 PM
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Trip Report 7: days Barcelona, 4 days Sevilla, 2 days Madrid. Includes Festas de Santa Eulalia and Carnival Parade in Barcelona

Spain 2004


Finally our trip to Spain was reality. As the days grew nearer, I had become more restless and was ever so ready for the wanderlust of travel. Ray and I had a good two-week trip planned. For resources we had relied on books from the library: Rick Steve?s, Frommer?s, Fodor?s, an EyeWitness Guide to Spain. We purchased the Michelin Green Guide to Spain, Eyewitness Top 10 in Barcelona, had a plethora of materials mailed to us by the Spanish Tourism department, purchased Lonely Planet?s World Food Spain and Marling?s Menu Master for Spain. We each did loads of research on the Internet. We felt ready for the 7 days in Barcelona, 4 in Sevilla and 2 in Madrid. Only downside to our plan was the lack of time in the Spanish country-side. My husband and I discussed this a bit in our planning, but it seemed this trip to Spain, our first, would be spent in the cities with maybe a day trip or two to venture into Spain?s rural beauty.

Early during the week of our departure I purchased special TSA approved locks for our luggage. These locks, which weigh a little more than 4 ounces each, contain a 4-combination lock as well as a keyed lock for which the TSA agents have a key to work the lock. So smart, and at a little more than $8.00 each, a tidy little investment.


Feb. 14, 2004 ? Departure.

When checking our bags at the Delta counter we were told the locks had to come off. I explained these were special locks approved by TSA, pointed out the TSA logo and insisted the Delta agent check with the TSA worker. Well, the TSA agent working behind the Delta desk was unaware of any special locks. I pursued. He checked with his supervisor and we were given the all ok. I was glad to have made the early start, as there was not really a line behind us. It was 4:50 am and we were quite early for our 7:05 departure. I chuckled to myself as the Delta agent did a little on the spot training session with the other Delta agents to show them our locks and tell them these sort of locks are approved by TSA.

Our plane departed the Will Rogers? Airport in Oklahoma City on time. All connections were on-time and we arrived in Barcelona 40 minutes early.

According to plan I managed to sleep on the plane about 4 hours. Ray was less fortunate and slept little if at all.

One note for future trips, Delta?s code-share, Atlantic Southeast, which took us from Atlanta to JFK, provided a very cramped travel experience? very little headroom above the window seat with narrower seats and aisles than other airlines.


Feb. 15 2004 - Welcoming festival ? Last Day of the Feast of Santa Eulalia

We rode the Aerobus from the Airport to Plaça Catalunya. The Aerobus was efficient, economical and comfortable. The trip took about 20 minutes through light Sunday morning traffic. Cost: 3.45 Euro. We walked the few blocks to our hotel, dropped off our luggage for safekeeping and began to wander.

This morning?s first objective was to find the Stamp and Coin Market that takes place on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm at Plaça Reial.

But, business first. We headed down La Rambla to Easy Internet to e-mail home a quick note stating a safe arrival. One Euro purchased an hour of Internet time. We obtained a numeric code on a slip of paper from a vending machine, logged on and assigned ourselves a password. We used our numeric logon throughout our stay in Barcelona and never required more time than the initial hour we purchased.

Ray inherited his grandfather?s first flight cover collection a few years back and since then has developed a keen passion to preserve and enhance his grandfather?s collection. If you read this entire trip report and have an interest in collecting stamps you?ll follow our quest through Spain. I must say we were more successful in Paris, but the hunt in Spain was fun, nonetheless. So, with the e-mail home fait accompli, we headed toward Plaça Reial.

We arrived at Plaça Reial just in time for a parade celebrating Santa Eulalia. The parade consisted of thirty or so 20-foot giants. Each giant had it?s entourage: a group of 4-6 men whose waists were girded with a long fabric belt that wrapped around and around the waist for support and a little band. The band consisted of drummers and musicians playing double reed wood flutes and bagpipes. Each band played the same tune and each entourage was dressed in matching outfits. (Each grouping wore different matching outfits.) The men with well-girded waists took turns crawling under the giant?s clothing, letting a chair-like framework rest on their shoulders and carrying the giant. A peek-hole was fashioned into the costume about one giant head measured below the giant?s pelvis so the man could see. Helpers around the giant lent their eyesight also to guide the giant?s steps, dances and movement. Every little bit, the procession would stop, the chair-like frame would rest on the ground and the man under the giant would rest, climb out from under the giant?s skirt or trousers to visit or swap turns.

What imagination and creativity! Santa Eulalia led the parade wearing a royal blue velvet dress, red cape with purple lining and gold trim. She carried an x-shaped wooden cross in her right hand (a symbol of her martyrdom) and a bouquet of flowers in her left hand. A wreath of flowers crowned her head. Following her were many other giants: historical figures, space-like creatures from Miro?s paintings, royalty, farmers, women, all classes of people, a lion and a large eagle. The bands played, giant couples paired off and danced. The dancing was oh-so-graceful as the long skits and trousers swayed!

Not all were 20-foot giants. The procession included a few characters on stilts, a group of 15 to 25 conquistadors riding donkeys (the papier-mâché donkeys were fashioned to fit around the one?s waist while walking), Looney Toon?s characters, some of the seven dwarfs? if not all. Some of the giants were smaller in stature and carried by teen-aged boys. Smaller too, were papier-mâché cows, pigs, donkeys and a friendly but mischievous green beast that squirted water.

The parade lasted roughly an hour. Any stray thoughts of being tired or jet-lagged had vanished.

We ventured into Placa Reial and to our amazement found the stamp and coin market set-up in the middle of the plaza. With the festival and parade commencing at the plaza we had wondered if the market might be cancelled. Booths selling stamps were on one side of the plaza; booths selling coins were on the other side. Large palm trees graced the plaza, which was surrounded by large buildings with covered arcades and shops. In the middle of the plaza was a large fountain. There were more coin booths than stamp booths. For stamp collectors there were loads of post cards and single stamps. We asked at several booths and no one had any first flight covers, ?Tiene usted cartas o sobres de primera vuelos?? Nada.

Now, the quick dash for church services. I thought it would be nice to attend mass at the Cathedral where Santa Eulalia is buried, especially on the last day of her festival. My hope was for noon mass. Well, try as we might, we became so twisted and turned around in those winding medieval streets, we could not find the Cathedral. On top of that, we crossed the parade several times as we made our way. My gut feeling was that the parade was heading to the Cathedral, but I was dead set on attending mass at either 1200 or 1:00 to avoid the embarrassment of falling asleep during a late afternoon or evening service while being lulled to sleep during the homily. In any case, since we had left the hotel to walk the streets of Barcelona and had thought we would not wander too far afield, or see anything of great importance we had left both map and camera at the hotel. We ended up at Iglesia de Santa Maria del Pi for noon mass. It was lovely. What a beautiful, peaceful church! (By the way, if you are interested in finding mass times in Spain, check out: http://www.misas.org/. The site is in Spanish.)

After mass we wandered the crooked streets of the Gothic Quarter. We made another trip up and down La Rambla, spotted La Boqueria, watched the mimes, admired the architecture, enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine, walked around the Monument a Colon, chuckled at the shell game in progress, and meandered through Plaça de Sant Josep Orio and Plaça del Pi with their open air art market. Finally, we found ourselves mesmerized by the castellers in Plaça de Sant Juame. Castellers are teams of men (and some women) who compete to build stacks consisting of tiers of people standing on each other?s shoulders. The finished product is a round castle-like turret five people tall with two children gracing the top. The base of each castell is surrounded by a multitude formed around its base lending physical support. After the smallest child sends a hand wave, the descent begins. Quite graceful. Each team had its own style of climbing up and down and team?s uniform. An emcee announced the parish each group was from. And, when the castle building began, music filled the air: brass flugel horns or trumpets and drums We weren?t close enough to see the musicians. It was now about two in the afternoon. We were both quite hungry and grabbed a quick sandwich to go and enjoyed the art of human castle building. After eating our sandwiches, we felt it would be prudent to head back to the hotel and grab our cameras and a map. Perhaps luck would allow us to capture some photos and mpgs of the castellers if we hurried back. A quick tour through ancient plazas, and the cloisters at the cathedral and we were back to the hotel.

Our home for this week was room 261 at the Regencia Colon, a 3 star hotel and sister hotel to the 4 star Colon. What a room! The color scheme was cream-colored walls with two golden-pink walls for accent, dark wood furniture, gold bedspread, botanical paintings set-off by sage colored wide cut mats in simple frames. An alcove contained a small round table with two chairs. We also had a small refrigerator, in-room safe, ample closet space, wine glasses and a cork-screw. The bathroom included a wonderful walk-in shower, bidet, sink, toilet, hairdryer, dusty earth green and cream mosaic tiling and frosted glass double doors that opened onto a large terrace. On the terrace were two comfortable out-of-doors chairs, a large table, large potted plants and a view up and down Carrer del Doctor Joaquim Pou and the narrow street behind the hotel. This was the only room like it at the Regencia Colon. The large terrace made it so very special. www.hotelregenciacolon.com

We quickly dropped our bags in the room, took a quick look around, grabbed cameras and map. In no time we were back to Plaça de Sant Juame. We watched the castellers all afternoon. Toward the end, the towers were built simultaneously with a single person on top of another person. These were also five people high.

Amazed at all we had seen, we walked back to our room.

Ray lied down on the bed and was instantly asleep and snoring quietly. I took this as an opportunity to unpack. After unpacking, I began to plan out Monday?s activities.

About an hour or so later, I heard drums coming from the direction of the Cathedral. It was 6:30. I went out on the terrace, looked down the street and saw a small group of people wearing identical devil costumes (hooded red capes with horns) walking toward the Cathedral. I asked Ray if he was sleeping. ?Uh, moan, no?, came his slow reply. I told him what I saw and that I was going to check it out. He mustered enough strength to wrestle from sleep and joined me. People were beginning to gather in front of the Cathedral. Festivities were underway again! This time it was a huge celebration of light. No way do my photos or mpgs do this festival justice. You have to experience the sensations in person. Oh, the sights, sounds, smells and excitement!

For the next three hours or so we watched correfocs, the Catalunian custom of sparks, flashes, smoke and light. Processions of similarly dressed groupings walked down Carrer del Bisbe carrying 4-foot long poles with a 6 to 8 inch-long casing of spinning fireworks attached to their ends. All along the steps of the Cathedral people beat drums in a constant, repetitive cadence. The drumbeat ebbed and flowed and became more fervent and louder to coincide as the sparks would crescendo and fill the square. Twilight nudged darkness and the drama continued to unfold. Soon, darkness filled the sky. The procession continued.

Groups of all ages processed down Carrer del Bisbe to enter Plaça de la Sue in front of the Cathedral. A member of each grouping carried one of these giant sparklers. Spitting and spewing sparks radiated in 12 to 16 foot circles around the pole. In the middle of the plaza a couple of people stood with torches and lit fireworks as they were reapplied. Sometimes whole groupings of these spinning fireworks would be lit simultaneously and warmth filled the night air. Groups of children clad in devilish costumes: protective eye goggles, bandanas tied around their mouths and noses and wearing either a bandana or devil hat, crouched beneath the umbrella of flying sparks. As a giant serpentine dragon entered Plaça de la Sue the crowd oo?d and whistled. When lit, this dragon spun round and round throwing off his sparks in a dizzying display. The dragon shifted his dance to a menacing pacing movement while the crowd whooped and applauded. As evening wore on, more and more participants took our front row places. The show became more and more lively and elaborate. Giant lizards and dragons with several torches of fireworks danced and spewed fire in all directions. Some of these beasts sported glowing eyes.

One time twenty-five to thirty of these poles were lit at once. Light filled the plaza. Excitement built.

The excitement and crowd could no longer be contained in Plaça de la Sue and spilled out onto Plaça Nova. Along Plaça Nova a red dragon with fireworks spewing forth from its mouth and tail marched back and forth. Later this red dragon faced off a green beast with stegosaurus-style spikes and it?s own fire projectiles. Drumbeats coaxed the encounter: dum da la dum dum... dum da la dum dum.. Again, a chorus of poles were lit and

We decided to stroll around a bit and wandered over to Plaça de Sant Juame where we had watched the castellers that afternoon. Here awaited another surprise. Away from the noise, smoke, light, and thrills of the correfoc we found peace and joy. A bandstand was set up and folks were beginning to dance the Sardana, Catalunya?s folkdance, in the square. The band consisted of flugel horns, a large stringed bass, various double reed instruments like English horns and oboes. I was not familiar with many of the instruments. The groupings here were all adults and as time wore on, more and more circles began to dance and some circles grew larger. There is a fast part to the Sardana and the people looked like an ocean of waves as they bounced in unison up and down, cresting and falling. The dance was gentle and peaceful. We watched this a little bit, maybe thirty minutes and then headed back toward the Cathedral.

The light show was still going on, but winding down. It was about 10:30. Our bedtime was not bad for a first day?s visit to Barcelona. No jet lag. We walked back to our hotel and crashed.

What an introduction to Barcelona! How blessed we were to experience the last day of La Festas de Santa Eulalia, a weeklong celebration!


Today?s lesson: Always carry the camera?. Even for a wandering/get acquainted first look.

Web site for Stamp markets around the world? http://www.linns.com/reference/travelg/news4.asp?uID=

More to come...
SharonNRayMc is offline  
Old Mar 13th, 2004, 06:38 PM
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Every misplaced question mark should be an apostrophe! I'll try to eliminate this mis-hap when I make my next posting to the trip report. I'm doing it in M/S Word and I remember now that Kaudrey had this same problem.

- Sharon
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Old Mar 13th, 2004, 07:12 PM
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Thank you for posting your trip report. Barcelona and Madrid top my list of destinations I haven't been in Europe and want to visit.

I have never been to Spain except for lunch once in Figures (across the French frontier in the Pyrnees). I get some interesting reactions when I tell people I once went to Spain for lunch. I let them react and then provide the explanation.
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Old Mar 13th, 2004, 09:48 PM
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Sharon,
What a great time to be in Barcelona!
I'm enjoying your trip report very much and eagerly awaiting the rest.

We're going to Spain next month, starting out in Barcelona, so I'm eager to hear all about it!
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Old Mar 14th, 2004, 02:18 PM
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Monday, Feb 16 - Odds and Ends, La Boqueria, Shopping and Train Ticket Chores

Upon waking our plan was for breakfast at Pinoxto's Bar in La Boquería, followed by exploring La Boquería, meandering up and down La Rambla, buying flowers for the room, wandering through the Barri Gôtic, purchasing some "Spanish" clothes for Ray and securing our train tickets.

It was hard to move quickly past the delightful shops, through the narrow winding streets and the beautiful light glinting between the 5-story buildings. The surroundings forced us to stroll and drink it in. What colors! What beauty!

It was 11:00 before we found ourselves in La Boquería at Pinoxto's Bar. This little bar is just to the right as you enter the market from its main entrance off La Rambla. I made an attempt to order eggs with shrimp, "juevos con camarones", but being Monday and that the boats don't go out on Sunday, there were no shrimp. The owner, wearing a neat, crisp, long-sleeved white cotton shirt, dark green bow-tie and colorful St. Patrick's Day green button-up vest sporting an embroidered "PINOCHO" that ran from top to bottom along the vest's left side, explained and offered what he did have available. He was both cheerful and helpful. And later, as he waited on others, I admired this man's efficient, cheerful and courteous manner.

When my Spanish failed, he brought over a bearded man who looked to be his son to help with the English. I learned that his "juevos con camarones" also included zucchini and mushrooms. We would be back!

I placed my order based on the owner's recommendations. I tried the salted fish served with stewed grapes and quickly ordered "pan con tomate" when I saw it being made for another customer. Pan con tomate is a french-style bread toasted or grilled, drizzled with olive oil and then seasoned by rubbing a ripe tomato over its surface to leave a few seeds, juice and flavor. This bread is a Catalan specialty. Ray ordered chicken and potatoes and made a failed attempt to order his morning coffee. Our server coached us, not with this meal. He offered wine, cava, or water. We each choose a "copa de vino tinto", a glass of red wine. We were given glasses for the wine and the bottle was placed between us. We would be charged for however much we drank.

I was glad to have been forewarned of the Spanish custom where waiters and waitresses will allow or disallow certain combinations. Great care is made to protect the palate. (Muchas gracias to Lonely Planet's World Food Spain guide. So, when the coffee was frowned upon, I figured I'd prompt for coffee after the meal, "despues". This worked and Ray had a magnificent cup of cappuccino to finish his meal and his palate remained protected during his main course.

We were served fresh food just as soon as it was prepared so our plates arrived at different times. My food arrived first. The sweet grapes were a subtle and tasty accompaniment to my fish, and I quickly understood why "pan con tomate" was a Catalan specialty. Ray's food was served a little later. His potatoes were organic treats that had been dug from the soil and quickly prepared before the sugars had time to turn to starch. His chicken was young, fresh, exquisite, roasted and spiced with only a hint of oregano.

After "almuerzo" (lunch) at Pinoxto's we wandered the stalls of La Boquería. What a beautiful display of food! La Boquería's official name is Mercat de Sant Josep and contains all sorts of produce, meats, seafood, cheeses, eggs, nuts, etc. I suspect if you can consume it, you will find it in La Boquería. The food artfully displayed in each stall, is as fresh and wonderful as it appears. We purchased a kilo of Valencia navel oranges and a kilo of strawberries.

We poked along La Rambla, watched the mimes work and noticed what looked to be the same folks gathered around the shell game. By the way, it's quite a separation act when the shell game breaks up in a hurried scatter as the player realizes he's been had. We made a quick stop at Easy Internet to see if we'd be able to meet up with my English friend, Marianne, who was traveling to Spain the following week and learned that the connection with Marianne would not work. We purchased some tulips for our room at one of the floral shops along La Rambla. At this point being burdened with flowers and produce, we returned to our room, placed the flowers in a vase provided by housekeeping and ventured out again.

We found the religious goods shop suggested by Maribel, from the Fodor's forum, and purchased one of the First Communion gifts I needed for growing nieces and nephews. The shop was simply lovely and had a large selection of fancily decorated baptism candles. These would make a fine gift for anyone being baptized. The baptism candles were long (18 inches or more) white candles, maybe 1 1/2 inch diameter, decorated with either white and pink wax or white and blue wax made to look like lace or frosting on a fancy cake. Such a candle would be perfect to use as the child's birthday candle. It's an idea I quite like, but my son Patrick's baptism candle was so small, we used it only for his first few birthdays.

If anyone is interested the shop mentioned above, Antigua Cereria Lluis Codina, (hours M-F:9:30-1:30 and 4:30-7:45 and Saturday 10-1:30), was right around the corner from the Cathedral at Carrer del Bisbe, 2. Walking away from the Cathedral, headed toward the port, you'll find it on your right side.

At 1:00 or 1:30 all shops closed for siesta. The allure of window-shopping vanished as hanging metal doors blocked the views and shops' entrances.

About 1:30 or 2:00 we found an attractive place for lunch, Xarcuteria Xaloc Degustacio and ordered the menu del día. Our order was taken promptly and then we waited and waited. Others had come in and ordered what we had and had already been served. I had taken the time to update my journal with most of Sunday's activities, but Ray was being attentive. We discussed it a bit, not knowing what the custom or culture would be. We watched and waited. Sure enough, we were both certain that our order had been lost. We tried to seek out the man who took our order and he seemingly had disappeared. So, not quite knowing what would be proper, we got one of the waitresses' attentions. Our food showed up and we ate. Needless to say, the meal was mediocre and did not compete in the "best meal we ate in Spain" category.

After this "second" lunch, we shopped, secured our train tickets and then enjoyed a quiet, simple dinner in the room: cava, bread, cheese, strawberries and oranges. The fruit we had obtained from La Boquería was exquisite.

I should probably add some detail on obtaining the train tickets. I had purchased AVE tickets from Sevilla to Madrid on the Internet using Renfe's web site, www.renfe.es. TrenHotel tickets are not sold on the Internet, so we needed to make the purchase in person. We tried to make these arrangements at the Travel Department in El Corte Ingles; however, Renfe had the TrenHotel tickets blocked. I'd highly recommend El Corte Ingles' travel department: the personnel were fluent in English, very helpful and efficient.

Plan "B" went into action. We purchased two 10-use metro tickets at the Plaça de Catalunya Metro station, and went to Sants Estacion's Renfe ticket counter. The Metro is NOT the way to make the trip. It is far easier to ride the Catalunya Express train from Plaça de Catalunia directly to Sants not only because of the shorter ride, but also because of the much shorter walk. Live and learn. The whole excursion/chore of securing our train tickets took about two hours. At day's end we truly enjoyed our quiet little dinner.

More to come...
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Old Mar 14th, 2004, 02:55 PM
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I can't wait for Seville!
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Old Mar 14th, 2004, 03:06 PM
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Sharon,
I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this report. I'm just living your trip vicariously! This is sooo much fun! I'm so glad always smiling Juan Bayan fed you well at Pinoxto and that you found the gifts you were looking for a the candle shop.
You two are really my kind of adventurous travellers. Can't wait until the next installment! ;-)
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Old Mar 15th, 2004, 02:10 PM
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Sharon,

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your report. My wife & I paid a short trip to Barcelona in January & I found your report very evocative. We weren't lucky enough to see a Carnival but your report was so descriptive & colourful that I almost feel as though I was there! Very much looking forward to hearing of your adventures in Seville.

Jim
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Old Mar 16th, 2004, 07:31 PM
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Tuesday, Feb 17 - Modernisme: La Sagrada Familia, Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau and Parc Guell

Tuesday dawned fair and crisp upon the Barri Gôtic of Barcelona. The golden rays of sun crept down the flowered balconies of the narrow lanes around the Cathedral and eventually found their way to the patio of Room 261, of the Regencia Colon hotel. Sleepy though we were, we stumbled out of bed and into the street to find breakfast. This was our day to venture beyond the Barri into the newer part of Barcelona, the Exiample, and explore the unique architecture of Barcelona, known as Modernista. After fortifying ourselves on a quick breakfast of cappuccino and croissants, we waited for a few minutes for the bus touristica to arrive. We bought a 2-day pass and settled in on the open second deck for a frosty ride though town.

We decided to start our trek where the Modernista movement ended, at the Temple of the Holy Family, La Sagrada Familia. Perhaps there are adjectives in Catalan to adequately describe this creation, but I can't come up with any in English. Willed into reality by perhaps the most beloved of Catalunya's sons, Antoni Gaudi, the structure defies comparison with any other building I'm familiar with. Soft orange-gray towers thrust improbably high into the cool blue sky and appear to be more in danger of melting into the surrounding streets than toppling over. Closer inspection reveals even stranger details. Stone lizards and snakes slither along the upper walls. Grapes and oranges crown the capitals. The roof pillars look like huge marble trees stretching skyward.

The church is still being built and the interior was a forest of scaffolding and plaster. Started in 1882 and added onto sporadically in the following 120 years, our tour bus attendant claimed it would be finished in another 20 years. We'll see. In the basement are models, exhibits, and plans for the completion, and a collection of relics of Gaudi. One can even peer through a small window a floor down to his grave. Oh yeah... And you can even climb up through the towers, all 360 or so steps, for a thrilling view of the city.

We spent 3 hours clambering all over the Sagrada, and photographed most of it. Exhausted, we walked along the reflecting pool and tried to find a bite to eat. Discretion prevents me from admitting where we had lunch, but I will say it was finger lickin' good. Next we hiked 4 blocks up Avinguda de Gaudi to the Hospital di Santa Creu i Sant Pau. This is a campus of medical buildings about 4 city blocks square, built around the turn of the century in the Modernista style. We spent an hour wandering mostly outside the buildings. Shiny tiles covered the roofs and domes of the buildings and motifs of geese, fish, and other wildlife graced the lintels and eaves.

We strolled back down the Avinguda de Gaudi and picked up what appeared to be an apple pie. Then we caught the next bus for Parc Guell, another Gaudi creation. We arrived about 4 in the afternoon, and hiked up the 4 steep blocks to the gate. I understand this project started out originally as a subdivision for cottages, but was turned into a municipal park after Gaudi became involved with the Sagrada. It now consists of two whimsical buildings at the entrance, a cheerful tile iguana to greet visitors, a covered area of columns and a long undulating loop trail climbing up a hill. Atop the covered area is an open area with tiled benches to sit on. When we arrived it was fairly crowded and there was a futball match being played by kids in the open area. Sharon and I whiled the rest of the daylight away strolling along the wide paved paths with the rest of the older folks. Sunset found us at the peak of the park's hill, at the three crosses, enjoying a somewhat smoggy view of the beautiful city spread out beneath our feet. The colored tiles of the Sagrada glistened in the low angled light and the city faded into an abstract palette of purple and orange hues.

Next it was down the hill and on the bus for the trip back to the Barri Gôtic. The Bus meandered around the rest of the tourist stops as the sky became darker and the light of the city streetlamps gradually replaced the Mediterranean sun. We decided to blow off visiting the Tibidado area due to darkness and exhaustion. By the time the bus rolled around to the Plaça de Catalunya, the evening was dark and chilly. We warmed up by darting into the nearby El Corte Inglés store and wandering around the floors. We soon found the cafeteria on the top floor and quickly ordered some coffee and hot chocolate. We then decided to have dinner at the restaurant. Sharon ordered roast chicken and I salmon in sauce. After dinner we looked in vain for an electrical current transformer to charge up my PDA. I needed to convert from the 220 to 110 cycles used in the States. We then went to the basement to stock up on groceries. We and our bags then walked down the bustling Portal de L'Angel, a pedestrian street, to our cozy hotel. We were rather startled by hearing a familiar tune on the way. An evangelical choir was singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic in the center of the street, in Catalan I suppose.

After settling in at the hotel, I decided to ask the desk clerk where the nearest hardware store was, to see if I could find a transformer. After writing down my question in Spanish with the help of Sharon, I descended to the front desk and asked my question. With raised eyebrow, I was told there was one down the end of the street, within sight of the intersection. As I returned to the room I thought I overheard the 2 desk clerks wondering out loud what a hotel guest would want at a Ferreteria (Hardware store). I guess that was sort of an odd request, for the next day I was to discover hardware stores in Spain carry few electrical items. Ah but I'm getting ahead of my story. More tomorrow.

More to come...
Ray
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Old Mar 16th, 2004, 09:12 PM
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Ray thought it would be fun from the reader's perspective if we mixed up the writing a bit. So, he took a turn. I quite like how he described the atmospheric conditions.

I'm glad you are enjoying the report so far. We'll keep chipping away at our trip report.

I'll try to remember to sign off as either Sharon or Ray so you can tell who the author was. (Some day's it might be both so I'll make mention of what parts.) Actually, you might be able to tell from the writing styles alone.

We have found that writing these trip reports is a great gift to ourselves. Then after time passes and we read the little trip report, it puts us right there again, living the experience with all of our senses alive with the place.

For those waiting to hear about Sevilla, I have started writing portions of those sections already. (Since I'm posting this chronologically, you'll have to wait awhile... I hope not so long that it's unbearable or that you can't glean something from our experiences before your trip.)
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Old Mar 17th, 2004, 09:36 PM
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Sharon & Ray,
Your trip report is so descriptive, I feel like I've been there!
Can't wait for the next installment!
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 10:20 PM
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La Sagrada Familia (an excellent site) - http://www.sagradafamilia.org/eng/noflash/index.htm

Hospital - http://www.santpau.es/santpau_eng/sobreweb.htm

- Sharon
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Old Mar 18th, 2004, 11:06 PM
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Wednesday, 18 Feb - Montjuic: MNAC (Museu d'Història de Catalunya) and a Salvadore Dalí Exhibit at Caixa Forum; La Boquería, More Shopping and Dinner at Set Portes

We woke early and after a quick bite in our room, made our way to Plaça de Catalunya to do the blue route on the Bus Tourístic. Our destination was the Museu d'Història de Catalunya, the MNAC, in Montjuic. Before hopping on the bus, we met up with a solo traveler from DC, Karen Denu, who was nearing the end of her two-week visit to Spain. We visited awhile, realized we had different agendas for the day and after making tentative dinner plans parted our separate ways.

We boarded the first bus promptly at 9:00 am; and, at 9:50 we arrived at the MNAC. We waited the ten minutes before the museum opened while enjoying the city view and surrounding mountains from the overlook. Once inside Ray grabbed a quick cup of coffee from a vending machine and then we headed straight to the museum bookstore. There we found a tremendous collection of interesting children's books in several languages. These children's books included a large selection in English on various topics related to Barcelona, Gaudi, Modernisme and travel to Spain. We read through several of these books and enjoyed the tremendous creativity that was represented in the artwork and stories presented. I think we spent an entire hour pouring through all the goodies in this gift shop; and, after touring the museum, we purchased a detailed guidebook to the MNAC's Romanesque collection. (Their collection of "adult" books is also quite extensive. I happened to spot a catalogue of the art museum located at Montserrat, and quickly added that museum to my list of activities for our day at Montserrat.)

The MNAC holds the best collection of Romanesque murals anywhere. These large frescos were taken mainly from churches in Catalunya and Aragón and represent works mostly from the 11th through 13th centuries. They are organized chronologically and offer a unique presentation of early Christian symbolism. I found it quite interesting to observe this symbolism develop in complexity before my eyes. Each room offered increasingly elaborate murals with more and more intricate painting techniques and more fully developed symbolism. These Romanesque murals, altars and objects d'Art filled large walls, entire vaulted ceilings, columns and porticos. How the frescos were removed from the original walls and transported to the replicated walls within the MNAC had to be true genius and tedious. Each of the full-scale replicas of the churches showcased ancient murals just like they had been placed in their original homes.

The museum curators had also created small-scale architectural replicas of the original churches and had marked along the small model's walls in red where the frescoes had been removed. Each of these small models was encased in a Plexiglas cube. Each display contained a photo showing the exterior of the church in its natural surroundings, with the church snuggled into its Pyrenees Mountain home and a descriptive text.

What a treasure!

We also enjoyed watching a children's tour go through the exhibits, complete with puppet acts, songs and animated explanations where the symbolism was explained, pointed to and then acted out in some way. A French tour happened through and I caught enough of the French explanations to develop an even greater appreciation of what my eyes beheld.

The Oval Hall and Gothic Art Collection were both closed for renovations.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the museum grounds and then walked downhill towards the Caixa Forum. Here we saw an amazing Salvadore Dalí exhibit, which is showing until May 23, 2004. The exhibit included a wide variety of his works: drawings, paintings, furniture, TV commercials, photography and sculpture. If Dalí used the medium, it was represented in this exhibit. Like Dalí, the exhibit was quite fun.

We hopped back on the Bus Tourístic. I was quite glad we were on the upper deck and we caught good views of the 1992 Olympic Games site and the Miramar - Jardins Costa i Llobera with its exotic cacti and Mediterranean plantings.

We hopped off at the Columbus Monument near the port, walked up La Rambla to Easy Internet so we could check the weather and determine whether to make the outing to Montserrat on Thursday or Friday. We discovered Friday's weather prediction included rain, so our decision was made.

We wandered over to La Boquería and purchased some more fruit: oranges, grapes, pomegranates and plums. This late afternoon visit to La Boquería allowed us to watch the day's catches of fish, octopus, large prawns, squid, actually every sea-type creature imaginable being unloaded at the many seafood stalls inside the market.

After leaving La Boquería we poked through more shops on the way home and we were able to make the last of our First Communion and Confirmation purchases for our lucky nieces and nephews. This time, we did our shopping at Apostolado Litúrgico located at Vía Layentana, 46. This shop, staffed by nuns, offered a huge selection of priest's vestments, and all sorts of religious goods.

Next, we had a bit of business to make Ray happy. Two days before our trip Ray had purchased a Palm-top, which he used as his personal entertainment system during the trip to Spain. His model held mp3s from several of his favorite CDs and a wide selection of games. My Palm, an m100, is several years old, had been won as a door prize and as old as it was, it was still compatible with his. On the trip over, I beamed him my address book and some games I had. Ray beamed me a few of his games to return the favor. Needless to say, he used up his battery power on the overseas flight. Unfortunately Ray had purchased the wrong sort of electrical converter and had no way to recharge his Palmtop. Our mission: find one in Spain.

We walked over to the hardware store near the hotel. One of the clerks spoke a little English. So, together with my Spanish, her English, and some charades I managed to learn electrical converters are called "transformadoras" and the conversation switched to Spanish. I learned they are sold in lighting stores. She gave us easy directions to a nearby lighting store and we continued our search.

Finally, after several days of small searches Ray's quest ended successfully. We celebrated with some wonderful pastries at Patisseria Montserratina (Calle de Condal, 15). I enjoyed a Bismarck and Ray had a small torta.

We dropped our purchases by the hotel, rested a little and headed back out to explore the Gràcia and Eixample areas a bit more. The evening's prize purchases came from Cacao Sampaka, an out-of-this world chocolate lover's dream store. (Consell de Cent, 292) http://www.cacaosampaka.com/. We are now armed with a good supply of the best dark chocolate bars, a 86% cacao Venezuelan chocolate, as well as some extra-special cocoa powder. Ray will use these to create one of his adopted specialties, the ever-so-rich Korova Cookies, a super chocolate cookie who's recipe hails from Pierre Hermé, the ingenious French pastry chef.

Once again we headed back to the hotel and a short while later, we heard from Karen, the woman we had met earlier that morning. Her day had been quite full and she was ready for an early evening. So, she opted out of dinner.

Ordinarily, this would have been a full day for us also; but, the Spanish seem to feel their second wind around 9 or 10, and we seemed to be adapting to the environment around us. We ventured out again around 10:00 and made our way through the narrow but well-lit streets to the waterfront and what is said to be one of the city's paella shrines, the Set Portes Restaurant, Passeig de Isabel II, 14. After a ten-minute wait we were seated in the pleasant dining room, an unseen pianist playing Barry Manilow pop tunes to aid our digestion. I ordered steamed vegetables as a starter and Ray ordered the salt cod fritters. My paella was tasty, but not quite the revelation I was expecting. Ray's roast shoulder of kid was cooked to perfection. Combined with water, a fine red wine and Crema Catalana, it was a fine meal indeed. A quiet midnight walk back to the hotel completed our fourth full day in the land of delicious food, flowers, and festivals.

MNAC - http://www.mnac.es/eng/index.htm

Dalí exhibit at Caixa Forum - http://portal1.lacaixa.es/Channel/Ch...=3-86-00-10000

Caixa Forum Main Web site - http://portal1.lacaixa.es/Channel/Ch...=1-38-00-00000

Bus Tourístic - http://www.tmb.net/en_US/turistes/bu...esiparades.jsp

Set Portes - http://www.setportes.com/ing/index_7portes.htm


More to come...
Sharon
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Old Mar 19th, 2004, 02:34 PM
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I'm going in May and your journal is really fantastic and inspired! Great tips!
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Old Mar 20th, 2004, 08:02 PM
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Morensa, I'm glad you are enjoying. My husband, Ray, worked on the writing quite a bit today while I was off to a woman's lenten retreat. We should have a bunch more to post soon. Ray had hoped to finish Barcelona so we could get to writing about Sevilla.
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Old Mar 26th, 2004, 05:41 AM
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really enjoyed your report!! Can't wait for Seville
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Old Mar 26th, 2004, 07:33 AM
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Sharon and Ray - I have loved reading about your trip! It was nice we crossed paths and your tips were great for me while I was there.

I am sorry our schedules never quite caught up with each other, but I am glad we touched base there - it's always great to meet other Fodorites!

Can't wait for the rest...

Karen
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Old Mar 28th, 2004, 04:30 PM
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Can't believe I fogot to include our second visit to Pinoxto's Bar on the Wednesday summary.

I'll add it here:

Mid afternoon we stopped for a quick bite at Pinoxto's Bar. Ray ordered tuna and I had the shrimp. We sipped cava (Torella brut) and enjoyed some pan con tomate. I was glad to have observed locals eat the shrimp while we waited for a stool, because I needed a short lesson in eating shrimp served with the heads on. You simply cut the shrimp between the thorax and tail, then slice off the legs and slip off the shell. It was a little bit of work, but well worth it.

- Sharon
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Old Mar 28th, 2004, 04:40 PM
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Thursday, 19 Feb - Montserrat

At this point I was quite eager to get out of the city to see some countryside. And, it had begun to really sink in just how much Barcelona had to offer, how little time we had left and how much more we would love to experience. Another day-trip out of town didn't seem in the cards because of our other priorities. We decided the trip to Montserrat would be the one venture outside Barcelona.

We took the Metro to Plaça de España, purchased our ticket to Montserrat and waited for the train to arrive. The one-hour train journey introduced us to smaller towns, villages and the Catalan countryside.

It was a crisp, cold, partly cloudy day. I was quite glad for the extra warmth provided by my silk long-sleeved undershirt, a black turtleneck. My feet sported wool socks and my well worn, sturdy, durable and oh-so-comfortable 20-year old Vasque hiking boots.

We arrived at Montserrat around 11:00. After walking around and exploring the area a little, we ate our picnic lunch in the company of some friendly cats and then headed to the Basilica. The boy's choir, La Escolanía, is one of the oldest and most renowned boys choirs in Europe and I was eager to hear them sing. We arrived at the Basilica at 12:40 to find it was packed. I found some steps along a side alter to use as a chair and Ray chose to stand

The concert began promptly at 1:00 p.m., was short (ten minutes long, no more) but lovely. They sang Salve Regina and Virolai, the hymn of Montserrat. We saw the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia. Beautiful.

After the concert we struck out on the wide paved trails of the area around the monastery. Most all the mountain belongs to the monastery and is full of trails, campgrounds and hermitages. Those not interested in climbing can ride the funiculars climbing above and below the monastery. These however were closed during our visit. We took a quick hike to an outcrop of rock with a good view of the monastery below its picturesque peaks. It had recently snowed so there were some slick spots on the trail, and I formed some snowballs. The snow easily packed into hard, really dense snowballs.

We took a quick coffee break at the monastery restaurant, where we also shared some sweet chocolate bottled milk. We then descended the mountain on the tram railway and made a smooth transfer to the train to Barcelona, arriving around 5:30.

On the train ride back, Ray came up with the idea to try the Catalunya Express from Sants Estacion to Plaça de Catalunya to see if the logistics would work easily as transportation for our departure date. So, at Plaça de España we transferred by Metro to Sants Estacion. Then, made the quick five-minute trip to Plaça de Catalunya. This side trip proved there would be very little walking from the exit point at Sants to the check-in for our TrenHotel journey; plus there was more room on the Express train for luggage. This was also a plus for us because the metro trains did not allow any extra space for luggage and those trains tended to be crowded. We waited at Plaça de Catalunya to check the frequency of the Express train: 2-3 minutes. We had our exit plan in place for Saturday night.

We were too tired for a formal evening dinner so we stopped at the now familiar El Corte Inglés basement grocery store to purchase some food for the hotel room. Later in the evening Ray shopped a little in the stores on the Portal de L'Angel, but purchased nothing.


Montserrat rack railway - www.cremallerademontserrat.com

Montserrat abbey - www.abadiamontserrat.net

Montserrat - www.fgc.net
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Old Mar 28th, 2004, 04:53 PM
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Friday, 20 Feb ? Cathedral, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, Tenorio?s Brasserie, Museu Marítim

Friday greeted us with gray overcast sky and chilly weather. First on the agenda was a stop at the Cathedral. We admired Santa Eulalia?s medieval crypt, enjoyed the side altars and the wonderful cloister, which is filled with more side altars, magnolia trees, palm trees and 13 white geese. The geese represent that age which Santa Eulalia was martyred, thirteen; and, are also symbolic of her virginity.

After leaving the Cathedral, we strolled through the Barri Gôtic. We stopped for a cappuccino at a small bar on the Plaça del Pi, then worked our way West to La Rambla and then north to the Plaça de Catalunya. After stopping at a bank to replenish our cash we struck off to the North on Passeig de Gràcia to visit another imaginative Gaudí architectural wonder, the Casa Batlló.

The casa was an existing townhouse redesigned by the Gaudí with no compromise of cost or design convention. Access is allowed throughout the second floor, the floor the owner inhabited. We took the handheld audio tour, which we recommend, even if a little over the top heaping praises on Gaudí. The walls are a light blue and beige, and have a sort of crackled painted pattern to them. Curved surfaces abound. Inverted plaster whirlpools decorate the ceilings of the main rooms. The outside is almost as novel. Tiles are placed on the exterior walls and roofs like scales on a reptile, and window pillars suggest bones. The craftsmanship was wonderful though out and I wondered why the craftsmen who built the walls and doors received no credit for their achievements.

After a fine midday meal down the street at a posh restaurant named Tenorio, we headed to another Gaudí landmark, an apartment block now known as the Pedrera, or stone quarry. The familiar wavy style of Gaudí continued to flow through this building. The roof, attic, and top floor are open to be explored here. The roof is great fun. Helmeted vents stand silent sentry, staring across the Barcelona skyline. Other vents swirl up to 4 armed crosses from the tiled floor. Great views of the citys landmarks can be had. The attic features model displays and an audio-visual presentation of Gaudí?s various creations. The apartment floor allows a peak into some details of daily life of an upscale urban Barcelonian family at the turn of the century. Period furniture, kitchen appliances, and children?s games, which are among the displays on the floor, are all garnished with the Gaudí architectural details around them. I wondered to myself what sort of world I would have grown up in, had the Gaudí Modernista style been embraced by the world more seriously. Rather than sterile square boxes of glass and concrete we could all now be living in a middle earth full of organic looking buildings, an attractive fantasy.

We next took the underground to the Drassanes stop and visited the Maritime Museum nearby. The museum is housed in an old naval shipyard and rope works, and houses many ship models. It probably is not very interesting for someone uninterested in naval history except for one display. On the main slipway is a full-scale replica of a 17th century war galley. A slick projection recreates a ghostly crew of slaves rowing at battle speed towards a possible watery grave. The beautiful ornate stern contrasts with the misery of those chained aboard. We used and enjoyed the English audio tour here also.

By the time we finished at the Maritime Museum, the sky, which had been threatening to rain all afternoon, had decided to make good on its threat. Of course we had left our umbrellas at the hotel and had a soggy walk home through the narrow streets. We dined on Iberico ham, strawberries and cava in our warm dry hotel room for the evening.

Casa Battlo ? www.casabatllo.es

Tenorio?s - http://www.cacheirogrup.com/ (web site is under construction as of March 20, 2004)

Museu Marítim, Drassanes Reials de Barcelona - http://www.diba.es/mmaritim/english/index.htm
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