A TRAVELOGUE ON BARCELONA
This travelogue on Barcelona is my personal experience and I have to say that I fell in love with this cosmopolitan and vivacious city. We took the Easyjet flight from Luton Airport London to Barcelona International airport. BARCELONA is known as the “City of constant renewal” as it’s a very dynamic and flexible to change.
The air itself has a feeling of joie de vivre and I was curious to know what was in store. We had booked rooms in advance and our landlady was a young Spanish girl who had other tenants living in her house. There was one Chinese guy who would give a wide toothed grin and say, Ola every time we crossed paths and 2 others whom we never saw during our stay. Comfortable, cozy rooms with a shared kitchen and bath were located in a prime area called Plaça de Catalunya. The building was tall and it’s astounding how an elevator fit into the narrow space there. If it opened on the left on the ground floor, the doors opened on the right on the 4th floor. Bath times with my grandson were a total riot. I would bathe him in the wide washbasin and he would keep splashing water all around. He would try to catch the water as it flowed through the faucet and I would try to capture every moment in my camera.
After recharging our batteries, we set out to explore the much talked about La Rambla market. The Rambla is the most renowned street in Barcelona. The wide thoroughfare is popular with tourists and locals alike. The center part of the Rambla is for pedestrians and it is bordered by trees.The traffic passes on either side of the pedestrian area. There are many kiosks selling souvenirs, flower stalls and street artists are in abundance here. The crowd in the market and the roadside shops and hawkers selling their ware reminded me of our markets back home. There were many Asians and tourists from other countries. Surprisingly, most of the souvenir shops were owned by Indians and they were adept in talking Spanish. I picked up a few souvenirs to take back home.We had a good laugh when we saw many carved elephants on the store counter, as Europe does not have elephants! Indians can be so very enterprisingJ. Cafes and restaurants were lined up on either side and I sighted a Marilyn Monroe lookalike enticing customers from the third-floor balcony. The café we entered had nothing vegetarian and I had to watch while my son and daughter-in-law ravished a platter of food and glasses of Sangria. Sangria is a representative beverage from Spain and it normally consists of red wine, chopped fruit like orange, lemon, lime, apple, peach, melon, berries, pineapple, grape, kiwifruit and mango, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy or Sprite. The Rambla is a feisty place and the over-flowing energy is very contagious.
We then took a cab to the Magic Fountain. The only tourist place where there is no entry fee as it is out in the open. The Font Màgica or Magic fountain is a large and spectacularly colorful fountain built in 1929. When the fountain is on, it constantly changes color, size, and shape. It is a spectacular display of color, light, music, and water acrobatics.All these elements together in just the right combinations, churns out pure magic! There were huge crowds and I had to jostle my way through for a closer look. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, but there were too many people in the frame. It was better to take a video as it should be seen in motion. Arian, my grandson was delighted when he was hoisted on his dad’s broad shoulders for a better view. After watching the fountain for some time and sitting around the entrance, we took a cab back home and as I was hungry, I rustled up some ready to make noodles for myself. I went to bed anticipating the sights in store the next day.
Day 2 started off as a warm day and we walked up to the famous La Boqueria Food Market. It is one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets and is about two-thirds of the way up the Ramblas. It is a feast for your eyes as well as nose. I wondered why we did not have such a world of food that is thronged by all kinds of people. You will find foods of all varieties and nationalities under one roof. The Boqueria Food Market is a must-see. I kept clicking all the stalls selling many and varied options of colorful vegetables, fresh fruit, dried spices, sweets, my favorite macaroons, seafood, meats, cheeses and much more. Although there was so much fresh and dried meat the place did not stink as much and I didn’t feel offended by all that display of meat. We had fresh fruit juice from one of l the fruit stalls in the market sell freshly squeezed fruit juices of many different varieties for 1euro a glass – a healthy and refreshing treat in the middle of the pandemonium. Dotted around the market there are many Tapas bars selling both food and drink and as it was lunch time, my son, Pratik and daughter-in-law Karina, seated themselves on the high stools and relished their platters of oysters, while I carried my grandson and soaked in all the sights, literally and in my camera as well. We went round the market and as I am vegetarian my son was in search of a quick, veggie snack which he found in the center of the market, just behind the fish sections. It was a small stall manned by an Italian man with a wood-fired oven selling pizzas by the slice.
We walked back to Placa de Catalunya and took the Hop on Hop off bus. It is the best way to explore the city.You get off at one place and then get on to another bus which will be there shortly to the next destination. The buses have individual ear plugs which you plug-in near your seat and choose your language and there is a running commentary about all the places you are going to visit.
We got off at the Aquarium, which was on the quayside and right beside a mall. Women and shopping are synonymous, I just window shopped while Karina picked up a couple of things. I must say that tickets to any place are quite steep and one cannot visit all, so it’s better to decide the main places of interest.The large Oceanarium has many species of fish, but the awe-inspiring ones are ferocious looking sharks that you can see up close from an eighty-meter long underwater tunnel. You can see some of the largest species that live in the Mediterranean, including tiger sharks, ocean sunfish, and rays. A moving sidewalk runs slowly through the long tunnel from where you can admire the creatures of the deep sea up close. Arian loved the fish and even I had my jaw dropping on sighting the mighty sharks with the razor sharp teeth. It is Europe’s largest aquarium with twenty basins that show marine life in the Mediterranean and beyond. There are more than eight thousand fish in the tanks that contain about six million liters of salt water. The aquarium is divided into a number of thematic areas with colorful morays, octopuses, flat fish, stone fish, red precious coral and the ethereal jellyfish. At the end is the Planeta Aqua, where there are little Penguins, Rays, mudskippers, the carnivorous piranhas and water spitting archerfish. Arian enjoyed the play area and refused to budge from there.
The name Gaudi can be heard on and off in Barcelona and I was curious to know why. Antoni Gaudí was a modernist architect and has many tourist attractions to his name. Next on our agenda was The Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece. It is Barcelona’s most important landmark. In 1882, the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar designed a neo-Gothic church and started construction which one year later, Gaudi took over as lead architect at the age of thirty-one and Gaudí changed the design significantly. The neo-Gothic style made way for Gaudí’s modernist style, which he based on forms found in nature. Though the Sagrada Família is not finished but the remarkable church is well worth a visit. You can visit the crypt where Gaudí is buried.A lift and a long walk will lead you to the top from where you have a splendid view over Barcelona. I opted to play with Arian in the kiddy park while Pratik and Karina explored the church. I had a good view from the outside and clicked many pictures. Arian was lording over all the rides as if they belonged to him and was even scolding a couple of little girls in his baby language. We got on to the next Hop on Hop off bus and we made a big blunder of getting off at the wrong place for the Barcelona’s Port – Cable Car- The ‘Transbordador Aeri Del Port’. By this time we were tired and moods were on edge and we missed getting off at Parc Guell too. Dejected we trooped back home with a determination to set things right the next day.
The third morning was bright and sunny and we headed straight to the beach. There are plenty of things to do on the beach besides swim and soak up the sun. Windsurfing, sailing and kite surfing are popular. You can’t miss Barcelona’s gigantic fish sculpture, which is one of many pieces of modern public art found near the beach and the famous W Hotel.The beach bars were doing brisk business with boys moving around quenching the thirst of those lazing in the sun. The dress code was skimpy and we were not prepared for a day at the beach. We had not carried any blankets or suntan lotion or even sand kits to build a castle with Arian. There were these Indian boys who were selling flimsy blankets for 20 Euros and approached me when he saw I wasn’t carrying any stuff. I spoke to him in Hindi and he said he would sell it to me for 10 Euros’ couldn’t stop laughing at the ingenuity of their business sense. They bought the sheets from Panipat for a hundred bucks and selling them for 20 Euros, thousands of miles away from home. I overheard him telling his friend that he was going to make 300 Euros by the end of the day! While Pratik took a quick dip in the blue waters, Karina and I just stood under an umbrella and within a few minutes, one of the beach boys came and said that it cost 10 Euros per hour. So much for our beach experience and then we headed to the Cable Car
The Transbordador cable journey begins with a lift ride to the top of the cable car tower and the view of the beach and port is breathtaking. Once in the cable car, look for a good viewpoint to take in the bird’s eye views of the harbor and beach and even the Sagrada Familia.Halfway through the journey the cable car travels through a central tower- the Torre de Jaume before continuing on your journey. There are no seats in the car and as you near the end of the trip you can take in the views of Montjuïc Mountain. We alighted in the Costa I Llobera Gardens, which is an idyllic place to view the harbour area. There are various statues in the gardens and gravel footpaths to walk around. There are numerous coin-operated telescopes at various points around the gardens for a sharper view. The cable ride is no doubt the most eye-catching and exhilarating way to view Barcelona and links two of the city’s prime locations – the beach and Montjuïc.
Day three was going to be very interesting as we were going to Parc Guell. We bought the tickets and we had time to kill before we could go in. We walked into a nearby café, which also had a souvenir store to have lunch. We freshened up in the washroom and sat down.Pratik went to pick up the food from the counter and before we could say jack Robinson, Arian’s brand new Arsenal bag was stolen from right below our noses. I was playing safe and carrying my passport, cards and cash in a sling pouch around my neck, but Karina left her credit card in the bag and it was gone. We rushed back home to report the card and back again in time for the park.It is one of the world’s most intriguing parks. The park’s colorful main staircase and the fanciful pavilions that designed by Antoni Gaudí look like they belong in some fairy tale and I felt I was walking through an outlandish spectacle.
I was still in a daze and we reached Casa Batllo, another Gaudi creation which is very expressive. We were given audio guides while buying the ticket and they guided us through each room.The facade is made of sandstone covered with colorful Catalan type of mosaic. Atypical of Gaudí, straight lines are non-existent. The first floor has irregularly sculpted oval windows and the balconies at the lower floors have bone-like pillars while those on the upper floors look like pieces of skulls. These features gave the house the nickname ‘House of Bones’. The colorful scaled roof reminds one of snakeskin. The dragon on the roof has a cross pierced in it and the bones and skulls on the facade represent all the dragon’s victims. The interior is as fascinating as its exterior. He took great pains in designing the wooden doors, stained glass windows, colorful tiles and carved out fireplace. I felt I was in a quirky fairytale home which was actually perfect. My son bought me a gold souvenir of Casa Battlo and then we called it a day.
The trip to Barcelona was coming to an end and seeing that I was almost starving, my son took me to an Indian restaurant and treated me to a sumptuous dinner. The owner was from Punjab and had named it Gandhi restaurant, but all kinds of meat and seafood were served there. It was heartening to see local Spanish people relishing an Indian meal. With great sadness, I packed and dragged myself to the airport to catch our flight to Paris. Yes, I know my Travelogue on Barcelona may seem incomplete as we missed out on quite a few places to visit, but then we did not have more time.