Friday, November 23, 2007

Buzzing Barcelona

I was just 10 minutes in Barcelona, waiting for my luggage, and I already got propositioned by an airport employee. Ah, rightfully so, welcome to Spain, lol.

Most of my days in the city were spent working. My high heels were killing me and I would have died wearing them. For diversion, there was this nice spa, I was told, in the hotel but sadly enough I wasn’t able to make use of it. I was so tired and just wanted to stay in the hotel room after dinner (dinner starts at 9PM in Spain!). I was also not feeling well and had been taking medications - the spa/sauna would have dehydrated me. Actually whilst writing this blog entry I am at home and sick.

Local male retirees with their canes having a chat session in La Rambla. I love this foto.

Ultimately, I was looking forward to the weekend where I could unwind and get out of the city. Yes! Get out of the city. I know you people would probably raise your eyebrows in shock and say – Huh, are you nuts? You are in exciting Barcelona and you want to get out of the city?

There have been many times I have untiringly written in this blog that my city girl days are over. Finito, klaar, or perhaps this is what they call -- signs of the ageing times. I am now in search of a more placid life: tranquility, nature, and space. Where I can truly breathe; away from the hustle and bustle of the city, which is a far cry considering I live in the Netherlands, one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Doing the touristy stuff here with the lion in Monument a Colon (Columbus monument). Middle foto is one of my favorites taken in the Gothic quarters. On the right, graffiti on the door, in some weird way, it has its charms.

In the weekend I enjoyed doing a couple of obligatory touristy stuff in Barcelona with a colleague. The highlight for this weekend was actually the trip to the Montserrat mountains which I will be talking about in another entry, however, for the weekend in Barcelona it was Montjuic and Mercat de la Boqueria.

Mercat de la Boqueria, adjacent to La Rambla, lifted up my tired spirits! I am far from being a real foodie but the sights, sounds, colors, and the buzz of the place totally brought me back into action. As a protocol in my trips, I always make sure to visit the local markets. Doing so gives me an idea what ticks the locals and allowing me to glimpse at their everyday life. I find it very interesting really as each country (or region) has its own distinct cuisine and habits.

Hanging dried spices sold in Mercat de la Boqueria. This is one very ‘salty’ mussel dinner. At least the white wine helped ease out the saltiness. I would not be surprised if majority of the Spanish are suffering from hypertension.

I was on the telephone with my mother and I remembered complaining to her that the food in Spain is too salty. She reminded me that perhaps my palate has adjusted to the bland northern European. She's probably right.

Montjuic on the other hand revitalized my soul. The place has lots of greenery and space. One can walk there forever, which I did until my legs got tired and I had to quickly stop for a break. Apart from climbing the Sagrada Familia which I wasn’t able to do, Montjuic offers great sceneries of Barcelona from a hilly perspective.

The beautiful view of buzzing Barcelona from Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) in Parc Montjuic. Next foto is the Museu itself.

In the evening at around 19:30 there is a lights and fountain show just right below the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC). This castle-like museum is also lit up and towers above Barcelona like a majestic queen in the evening.

To get to Montjuic, take the metro and get off at Espanya station, then walk towards the museum on top of the hill that looks like a castle or get off at Para-lell metro and take the funicular going up to Parc Montjuic.

To check out my fotos of the city, go here: Barcelona, Spain
To check out my fotos of the market, go here: Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Here, the Sagrada Familia looms ahead of me. This building is cursed and will never be finished.

Later that evening, I went to Sagrada Familia, which was on the next metro stop from my new hotel. I changed hotels in the course of the weekend as I was not prepared to pay €210 a night, what Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I was charging us and this is already with corporate discount. Unfortunately, I only stay in 5 star hotels if someone else is picking up the bill, like when work requires us, luckily. Otherwise, a 3 or 4 stars would suffice.

Anyway, I walked inside this café just right by the corner of the massive grey church. Honestly speaking, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia not only gives me the goose bumps and eerie feeling, but the church sure looks like a devil’s cursed unfinished palace. Gaudi and the Catalans have been busy with this building for more than a century already and I doubt if we will ever see the light of day in our lifetime.

The Sagrada Familia really looks like a devils palace! On the right foto is the Hospital de Sant Pau, listed in UNESCO’s world heritage. You would not think this building is a hospital don’t you?

I ordered an espresso, which is called ‘café solo’ there. The man behind the counter, who is the bartender and cashier, reminded me of my previous boss in the Philippines. He was half Filipino-half Spanish and they looked quite a lot similar with the moustache and curly hair.

He gave me my café solo and I sat down in one of the tables. For a moment, I didn’t realize he was staring at me. I gave him the thumbs up sign, meaning the café solo was good, which in fact was true. But little did I know that by doing so I am actually encouraging him for something else.

As a result I got another cup of café solo, on his tab. He won’t let me pay even if I insist -- la cuenta por favor? I guess that would have been an insult to his Spanish male ego. As he does not speak English (nor majority of the Spaniards), I was desperately clinging to my broken ‘poquito’ Spanish. Moreover, I had to shove away another proposition. The persistent man wanted a kiss! How dare he, lol!

I told you, these Spaniards are lady grabbers.


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