Arriving in Barcelona was so easy. As I was leaving the plane, dazed from exhaustion, I realized I never was asked to fill out one of those customs forms the flight attendants always hand out. A few of us from the flight were concerned… It tuns out Barcelona is the easiest place to fly into…There were no lines at customs and the Customs guy took my passport…you know the New one with the first page full with my Iranian Visa. He took it and just stamped right above the Visa with the picture of me in a headscarf, where I look like a Babushka. He never even looked up. My bag was there when I got to baggage and before you know it, I was off. I was planning on taking the Bus or train but was so very tired I decided to Cab it…I brought along 35 Euro left over from an old trip so I decided not to do any exchange until I could get to a bank with the best rates…plus I planned on using my credit card for the taxi…OK so many things wrong with those assumptions…Once I got in the taxi I discovered he didn’t take cards so I said I only had 30 Euro(normally 35e) and he agreed to it…That way I could give him the 35 to include 5 euro tip. Whew….hmmm Not so fast…I took out the Euro and suddenly realized that one of my 10’s was a 10 pound note NOT a Euro…uh oh…So I told him and…well let’s just say he was not happy…As I looked out the window and saw only industrial type buildings, I hoped he wasn’t going to just let me out. I asked if he would take dollars for the difference but he said a flat no…then I asked if he could just wait while I exchanged some dollars at the hotel…he said no…but he kept driving…and then the meter hit 25E and he kept going so I just held my breath in hopes I would actually get delivered to the hotel and not on the side of the road. As I played with my 25 euro cash, I could see and hear him exhale very hard…When we finally arrived, I asked him if $17.00 would work for the missing 10 euro. He seemed to like that and hustled me out to the hotel. I later found it was a back holiday so when I did exchange my cash the exchange rate was bad.
That little mishap gave way to some good luck. Even though it was only 11am, they were able to let me into the room. I was incredibly relieved. But as one of the Deskmen was helping answer a few questions, an Irish couple arrived only to be told they didn’t have a room and they were being sent to another hotel 15 minutes away. This did not sit well with the couple or the next that came in and were told the same…It seems the Expedia had booked rooms that didn’t exist on a holiday weekend. I booked through Cheap Tickets and was so nervous that I called the Hotel directly to reconfirm I had the room…My room was quite inexpensive, considering the Hotel in right on La Rambla, the main drag…I felt so very lucky…until I saw my lovely LITTLE room…yep, it reminded me of what a cloistered nun’s room would be…size of a closet with a bed and a little table at the foot with a TV…and a little bathroom and a dorm type closet…The one window looks into a brick wall…BUT it’s quiet, which is a feat for being in the middle of everything, on the busiest Avenue in Barcelona…and I really don’t need anything but that… most of all it is clean and the staff are lovely. And I am guessing that since I am a single person willing to stay in that room, that may be why I wasn’t moved to another hotel like the others.
Once I unpacked, I took off to try to kill some time and NOT sleep until the evening so as not to feed the jet lag.
I explored an area right behind my hotel called Barri Gothic. It’s described as “the old town’s medieval core”. It’s referred to as the Gothic Quarter and was built on the remains of an early Roman settlement. As I wondered around the narrow streets…They reminded me of a maze…every turn led somewhere and some were dead ends and there was a good chance I may never be found again. (-; . There are Churches and little open squares where cafes sit and Artists set up their easels to paint. I was quite hungry and just kept wandering in hopes of finding lunch…But lunch starts around 2pm so I settled on a little shop that sold baguettes and I bought one with “Spanish ham” which we refer to as Prosciutto. I continued walking while eating since there was nowhere to sit. I wandered and took pictures and kept seeing Gelato places that made my mouth water…but I knew I must wait…I could feel my body just starting to crumble so I decided to go back to the hotel and take a little nap. I know that is a big no no but I hadn’t really slept the last few nights and barely closed my eyes on the plane…So a little nap couldn’t hurt…right? Well that little room with the 1 tiny window with blackout curtains got very dark…and I was out for nine hours…It was too late for me to go out for dinner so I ate a Kind Bar and realized I was now wide awake at 11pm…I stayed up for a few hours watching The Mentalist in Spanish and tossed and turned until I finally fell asleep again around 3AM. There is a reason you are supposed to stay awake until at least 8pm…
The morning gave way to a more energetic me…and I was off. Barcelona and I are trying to work out our schedules…You see Barcelona is a night owl and I am a morning person…but where I may find it difficult to find a good breakfast before 9:30, I got to enjoy all the amazing narrow streets without the throngs of tourists. Did I mention that Barcelona has more tourists then any place I have ever been to. It is a holiday weekend so I am hoping the mass of people is just for this weekend. Once the day gets going, the flow of the tourists seem to become the rhythm of the city. I do find the crush of people competing for space on the streets with the bikes & cars to be daunting…but I am sure I will master it by the time I leave…and from what I have read about Tehran, Istanbul & Tunis, I better get that down because it is definitely more a game of chicken in those places!
I was able to find a cute little hole in the wall place in the Gothic Quarter for a hearty breakfast, which I desperately needed. And then I set off for Barcenolaneta, a beach area on the Mediterranean. Let’s say my directionally challenged side was in full force today so I got to see all sorts of nooks and cranies of hidden Barcelona. Once walking the boardwalk and feeling the cool breeze, my brain fog began to clear. I spent the morning hanging there and then wandered around aimlessly. I found a cool Park called Parc de la Ciutadella…Saw some really cool trees there near Parliament…I wandered all over until finally I stumbled on the Barcelona Market…What a wonderful wonderful place..BUT oh my God is it packed…it was insane…I was so hungry that I felt my mission had to be about food to eat…I stumbled on this guy making Crepes and he was wonderful. He was from Argentina and had lived in Barcelona for the last 15 years…he loved the energy, he told me. Well he didn’t just make me the best Crepe I have ever eaten, he put on a lovely performance just for me. Once I had his masterpiece in hand, I went off to buy a fresh fruit juice that seemed to be everywhere just moments ago and now that I wanted one, there were none to be found! Voila! I finally get a Mango one and find my way out of this wonderful market and into a square where I can sit and eat and watch all the activity…That is what I love the most. Watching it all…I especially love watching the women hanging their clothes while yelling across the narrow streets..I can’t understand a word but I feel like I know exactly what they are saying.
I had ordered a ticket to the Gaudi house known as Casa Battlo and now that I was well satiated, I decided to venture out and do the tour…Again my internal GPS was off so it took me a bit longer…but as always, I ask people for directions and it always leads to fun encounters… the joy of traveling solo is that no one is there to complain that I are lost yet again…
Once I found the Casa Battlo, the lines were incredible…reminded me of Disney during spring break. Even with my ticket, I had to wait…not too long but still a bit of a wait. Wow, Gaudi was an amazing architect…his use of light and angles are so unique. Also the Audio tour came with a smart phone with a camera… each room was empty but when you put the phone up in any area it showed the room as it was with furniture…or other wonderful things…Very unique Audio/Visual tour…very unique.
Once done there I felt the pangs of another nap but this one I deemed to be only an hour…and by the time I woke up I needed nourishment…Off I went to a section of town called El Raval…There is this street called Blai St and it is a pedestrian street lined with tapas bars and indoor and outdoor dining…It was cheaper indoors and plus it was smoke free…a big annoyance for me is that everyone here smokes and you can’t get around it. The Catalan guy at the front desk of my hotel highly recommended this one place…He said since I was going to eat so early(7PM), he could guarantee they would serve… so I went there and it was amazing…Yum Yum…and yes, it was fairly empty when I first got there but the 2 guys at the counter seemed thrilled and spent much time entertaining me…and when they were talking amongst themselves, I could understand enough of what they were saying to know they liked Americans…One of the guys wants to move to the US because he is none other then a Set Designer and wants to work in NY or LA. After dinner I finally gave into my Gelato craving…
And now I am back at the hotel and will be off tomorrow to visit Dali’s hometown of Figueres…it is about an hours train ride from Barcelona…I’ll report back in a few days…I am having problem uploading my photos…I will try to figure it out and create a Barcelona album at the end.