Tuesday, July 2: This morning, I try to take care of some business; I go to the post office, which is just around the corner from my hotel, to return the purple bag I bought in Oman plus some of the clothes I’ve already worn, just to lighten my load a bit. There I meet a woman architect from Germany who lives in Barcelona; she has a huge box to mail that contains her thesis, 5 years in the making, on “Architecture and Sound.” She’s quite proud of it, I can see, and she thinks it will be a very important paper in the architecture world.
On the opposite corner near my hotel, I find an adorable shop that sells colorful Spanish-looking skirts. I think the store is meant for wholesalers, as it seems every shop in my neighborhood is, but the saleswoman here allows me to buy 3 for 30 euros each, which I do. One of them needs to be hemmed but the other two, I hope to wear in Spain. Now, I have things of probably equal weight to take the place of the stuff I just sent home!
After my shopping spree, I go to a huge department store near Placa de Catalunya to try to find a Spanish SIM card so I’ll have a number I can use in Spain. It takes quite a while because the department store is huge and I’m told to go to the 7th floor, which takes some effort because of packed elevators that run few and far between. When I get to the top, I’m told I need my passport, which I have left in my hotel; besides that, the SIM card will cost 30 euros. Once I leave Spain and arrive in Portugal, roaming charges will apply. For the few phone calls I think I will have to make in Spain, it hardly seems worth it, and to get my passport will require some degree of time and effort. I give up on the idea.
Finally, after all that, my explorations can begin. In my Lonely Planet Spain, I have a “Walking Tour of the Old Town” that I plan to follow. Most of this walk is in the Barri Gotic area. Since I’m getting such a late start, I stop at a wonderful sidewalk cafe called Bar Lobo, which is packed both inside and out, for lunch. Their menu is quite extensive, and expensive, but that doesn’t stop me. A British couple sitting beside me has some fantastic-looking tapas, so I tell the waitress to just bring me what they have: fried eggplant with honey, a cheese platter and a Coke Light.
I start my walking tour by strolling down La Rambla to the Mercat de la Boqueria, one of the most colorful produce markets I have ever seen. It’s packed and colorful and so enticing that I wish I lived here so I could take full advantage of coming here daily to buy fresh produce.
Outside the produce market, on La Rambla, there are also some stalls selling flowers.
I even see an Erotic Museum, but I don’t go in!
Next, I stop at Placa Reial, a large square which seems to be quite a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike, with its 19th century neoclassical buildings around the perimeter, its palm trees and huge fountain. The lamp posts near the fountain are Gaudi’s first known works in the city.
I then make a stop at Barcelona Catedral, a magnificent Gothic structure. Most of the building dates from between 1298 and 1460, but the facade was created in the 1870s. I attempt to go inside, but there is a 6 euro fee and I need a scarf to cover my shoulders which I didn’t bring. Oh well, I’m happy to just wander the streets and save the 6 euro fee, as there are plenty of cathedrals to see in Spain. 🙂
My plan was to stop at the Picasso museum after the Catedral, but when I arrive there, my legs are extremely sore and there is a long queue about 2 blocks long. I just don’t have the energy for it. I’ll have to see Picasso somewhere else. On the way back to the hotel, I take a couple more pictures of interesting sights.
On the way back, I stop at this little cafe, Santa Maria del Mar Bar & Restaurant, for a glass of wine. It’s another great place for people-watching.
Since I ate such a huge and late lunch at Bar Lobo, I simply return to the hotel to relax, rather than going out for dinner. I sit on the patio and blog, and little Ben, the super-smart boy from McLean, VA who ate breakfast with me yesterday morning, takes a picture of me with the Buddha in the garden.
I need to get an early start to Toledo tomorrow, so I just work on some of my blogs, read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and sleep, dreaming happy dreams of my wonderful time in Barcelona. 🙂