Saturday, September 11, 2010

Barcelona Downtown

Placa de las Glorias
Off to a late start today – I must have turned off the alarm and fallen back asleep! Alan had trouble sleeping last night (jet lag raises its annoying head again!) so it was probably a good thing. We finally headed downtown around 10:30am, flying along highways hoping they were the right ones, and ending up at the roundabout that was our destination of sorts. Then the real fun started because we were trying to find the MetroPark, what we had been informed was a car garage where for 7  you could park your car and get a day pass on all the public transit in the city. I didn’t have an exact address, just that it was at this roundabout. I figured it would be obvious. I was oh so wrong—this was a seriously big roundabout with multiple levels. So we started trying side streets, but my map was not really detailed enough to help, so eventually we gave up when a road we were on dead-ended into a garage. We found the metro stop (which said there was parking here, but not exactly where) so we walked around a little more but still couldn’t find it. Oh well. Next stop: La Sagrada Familia!

La Sagrada Familia, with cranes a permanent
feature of the architecture
I knew we wouldn’t have the time (or the money!) to see everything I wanted to in Barcelona, but this, I told Alan, we have to see! It is the most visited site in Spain and it is not even finished, though Gaudi started working on it in 1884 (the original architect laid the foundation stone in 1882, and plans started back in 1874). The interior is hopefully to be finished this year, and all work completed by 2030. It will hold 13,000 people when it’s done. The pillars are supposed to be like tree trunks, and local plants and natural shapes influence many aspects of the architecture. There will be a total of 18 towers when it is finished – 12 for the apostles, 4 for the evangelists, one for Mary and one, 170 meters tall, for Christ.

Inside La Sagrada Familia
Park Guell
Our next stop was to see a different side of Gaudi through his work in Park Guell. We rode the outdoor escalators (super neat – and I was appreciative as the street is very steep) towards the park, stopping off to buy a late lunch that we carried with us to the very top of the park, where we could sit and see the whole city below us. Originally started in 1900 as a gated community for Barcelona’s rich by a man named Eusebi Guell, the park was a little too far ahead of its time and so had to stop work in 1914 as only 3 of the 60 blocks sold. But Guell’s favorite architect, Gaudi, had already built 3 km of very cool stuff, including walkways, gatehouses, an area for the market, and a huge balcony on top to overlook Barcelona. The city bought the area in 1922 and now it is free and open to all.

Mercat da la Boqueria
We then headed to La Rambla, and long, shop-lined street bursting with vendors, tourists, street performers, and pickpockets (or so I am told, luckily we didn’t run into any of those!). We were getting tired at this point, so we decided to make the Mercat da la Boqueria our last stop. A busy hall full of everything you want to eat and some things you don’t, we bough some watermelon to eat now and other fruit to take back for lunch tomorrow.

Barcelona Metro
I won’t bore you with another horror story of trying to get home (really wish I had printed out directions for both ways!) but we made it after an unwanted detour to the north end of town, a few wrong guesses and finally a few correct ones. Alan said he is never driving in Barcelona again. I guess I better learn to drive a manual before we have to go home!

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