Thursday, September 20, 2007

Day Eight: Barcelona in a Day

Port De Barcelona at night

Our mission today was to visit all the amazing sights of Barcelona. Well, at least that was my plan. I am rather ambitious and sometimes I forget that I am traveling with small children and other people who actually want to eat during the day. The day began with rain again and we decided on traveling to the old city and visit the Aquarium, Museums, or Cathedrals instead of beach or pool lounging. Our apartment was not in the center of town, but in a newly developed area just to the north a few blocks off the northern beaches, so to get into the main tourism area we needed to catch the metro. We found the metro was under construction so caught a lengthy ride in a bus to the end of the metro line which would take us the rest of the way. This entire trip was a little over a half hour, or should have been if it hadn't involved getting our two-day metro tickets and pulling out the maps to Barcelona Boardwalkfigure out just where in Barcelona we had ended up. My internal ticker was counting each minute wasted and checking off one sight or another from the many exciting places I knew awaited us throughout the city which we would now not be able to visit. I am not so unrealistic as to think we actually would make it to each of the sights, but the process of moving them to the unattainable side of my list was a hard realization to tackle.

As it turned out, by the time we had made it into the city the rain had stopped and we decided to pass by the aquarium and head towards the irresistible avenue of La Rambla. Barcelona has the bad reputation of pick-pockets and no other area has more than La Rambla. And though it is mentioned in every forum that the street is just a tourist trap and you'd be better off taking to the back streets to explore the inner beauty of the city, its infamous reputation still attracted us. We warmed ourselves up to the city by tracing its boardwalk towards the statue of Christopher Columbus pointing out to sea. While on the boardwalk we were rewarded with the wide spectrum of Barcelona's people; from the lovers to the loners.

La Rambla was not what I would have considered a tourist trap, though it did seem to be conveniently a central hub for the tourists. Cafe tables and chairs spilled out onto the overgrown street and peddlers or artists mingled in between. There was room enough for people to walk by or to linger in crowds circling one performer or another. As we wove through the mass of loitering tourists we kept our hands over our belongings and clasped tight the smaller hands of our family. We reserved our dinner and show at the acclaimed Flamenco hall situated in the heart of La Rambla and moved on towards the market. People were passing by with a variety of halved fruits and a spoon to dig out the tasty middles. One lady had a fruit with a bright pink flesh and I was set on finding one in the market. If I am going to taste the culture I feel it is a responsibility to take it literally at points. Sure, they were selling peaches and nectarines which I am sure were quite tasty, but why come all this way to buy something you can just as Pink Anything!easily pick up at any grocery store. Instead, I purchased the exotic for myself and any other family member who was daring enough to join me in the adventure. It proved tasty and I yearned to try the other exotic fruits. Eventually, I figured we'd get to them. We stopped at a little Chinese owned tapas cafe (mistakenly pronounced "topless" by certain members of the family for the remainder of our trip leading to many questionable looks) and had a snack to tide us over until we could experience our dinner later in the evening. We fell victim to the rose peddler who handed me a rose and how could I refuse? Three euros for a single rose which would not see a vase in time to keep it; I bought two for my princesses who carried them until they began to droop, whereupon they were strategically placed in the stroller for decoration. The rest of the street led us past caged turtles, birds, and gophers for sale. Many a child was leaving the area with a pet cage and baby turtles. Not our children. Now if there had been any hermit crabs I may have indulged, but there were only the same animals at each stand that we passed.

We wound our way off of the main thoroughfare and into the Gothic Quarter where our guidebooks told us many treasures were waiting to be found. Every guide I'd read said to wander the winding streets and just keep your eyes out for all the details; from Roman ruins to tiny corner cafe's. The entrance we chose was through the old Roman walled city gates and past the only remaining arch of what was once Oo Oo Ooa long road lined with them. Inside we realized we were walking the wall of an ancient Cathedral and stepped into it's corridors to explore its wonders without the aid of a guidebook. Would you be surprised to know I was enchanted with it's many monkey gargoyles (more shown in the photo album)? Or the stones marking the dead at every step? There was one intricate thing to see with every turn of the head and we soon had spread out to see each that interested us most. We had to drag ourselves out of the cathedral to make it in time for our 7 o'clock dinner and show. As we wound our way through the streets it was hard not to stop and marvel at one thing or another, but we made it to the dinner without one moment wasted.

The buffet was a spread like you could not imagine. Every traditional Catalonian dish was on the table along with several other international cuisines, and by the international crowd seated around us it was not difficult to see their reasoning. Wine and sangria were served in abundance and with an array of desserts that left not one unsampled. The service treated us like royalty, as well they should have as it emptied us of our entire supply of cash to pay for the dinner and show. Was it worth it? Yes! They gave us the best seats in the house for the show: a balcony seat with a table large enough for our drinks and enough chairs for us and the kids. The view of the stage was better than what the front row would have gotten. People began filing in from the street (those who had purchased show-only tickets) and were seated in the rows of chairs set up in the cozy room. I would say they were able to squeeze in about 75 before they closed the doors and dimmed the lights. The dance was more like an opera telling the story of a mother and her two daughters and their lovers. Between the singing Flamenco in colorand courting dances, each man won the mothers approval by giving us an emotional and physically challenging show of dance. Sweat sprayed the crowd from their tips of their drenched hair and you could see the marks down their shirts as they stripped their jacket off and left the stage. It was a beautiful and emotionally moving performance, but I doubt our girls gathered any meaning of it. The drumming of the shoes on the wooden stage beat into their ears without relief and the flashed of brilliantly lit dresses overwhelmed their senses. Soon they where hiding their sleepy heads in our laps and covering their ears. The baby didn't know which lap to sit in and cried for one or another continually around our tight group.

It was a great show, but by the end we were all ready to get the kids back out into the night air and onto the active Rambla which was just warming up for its nightlife. It was tempting to pass it all by and get back onto the metro to find our way back to the beds, but the crowds and shows drew us into their circles. We passed another couple of Flamenco dancers dancing on the cobblestones to music coming from a boom box. The scene may have been convincing if we had not just had the experience of our lives with the real thing. A group of break dancers kept us in their circle of onlookers for an entire show and as they packed up we continued our journey towards the port. There, a whole other set of nightlife awaited us. We watched a cruise ship leave for its nightly trip through the Mediterranean and the locals feed a school of frenzied fish off the dock. The children were getting thirsty and hungry again so we stopped and got them a midnight Slushy and Belgian waffle at a Chinese street vendor. It helped get them from street to metro to bus to bed. The adults indulged on their nightly portions of wine, beer, cheese, and bread in the living room while recalling the days events before hitting the sack. Another day in Barcelona awaited us in the morning.

W.C. Report:

Would you call it sacrilege to change a babies poopy diaper on a ledge in the middle of a Catholic sanctuary? Even if their only toilet was one which had been used for centuries in a tiny basement hole in the center of the courtyard garden?

Tragedy Report:

Nothing got stolen so we counted ourselves blessed beyond measure.

Read comments (10)

No comments: