Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Our first adventure for the day was getting our free breakfast from the bakery about a block away.

Bopan - L'Art de Fer Pa

CafĂ© con Leche I was the drink we each chose and then we had little bun-witches as the main meal. Not standard breakfast fare, but none the less quite fine. 

We had a weird situation happen to us on the way back from breakfast. When we got back into our building there was an attendant sitting in the little booth inside the hallway. We asked him in our best Spanish about getting towels for our room. We could not understand why he was not comprehending what we were talking about. We discussed the shower and again towels. He appeared to not understand. Ken got out the keys for our apartment and was going to drop the subject as our Spanish was not getting us any where.  When the amused attendant saw the keys he realized that we were in the wrong building and directed us to where we were supposed to be. No wonder the attendant was smiling and chuckling to himself. He probably wondered why we wanted him to get us towels. Well, in our defence the lobby of the building was identical to the building we are staying in. You have to keep a sense of humour about these things. 

Once in a rented car we drove south west out of Barcelona towards the airport. We were on our way to the smaller city of Sitges, by the Mediterranean Sea.
Sitges was recommended from several sources. On the way to this city we saw the biggest cement plant ever...mas grande. Sitges appears to be, perhaps, a retirement community of some ex pats. We were able to drive close to where the Mediterranean Sea was splashing up onto the street. By this time it had started to rain and was a bit windy. 

The next sort of major place that we went to was a place called Tarragona. We ended up going to a huge mall there and eating a Mediterranean lunch. This mall had some stores that you will recognize the names of such as Zara, H&M and Guess. There was even a McDonald's. Malls are such a good thing when it's raining.

We had driven as far as Tarragona on the toll road which was a six lane highway on which you could drive 120 km/h. We chose something a little less speedy for the way back. This backroad took us by farms and where perhaps regular folk lived.   We thought maybe we could see some animals, cows, pigs, horses, donkeys, chickens, etc.  We saw two horses that was it. We did see some cars sporting a cute little donkey sticker but no real donkeys. We saw quite a few fields covered in grapevines and some fields of artichokes. We're now in an area where there are lots of deciduous trees and less palm trees, but still palm trees are present, but it does not seem like a tropical area. Not too far out of that city is Tamarit where we found a wonderful campground  that was a bit deserted because of the time of year. It looks like it would be a wonderful place if it was summer. We drove through the community of Roda De Bara. We saw on the road a triumphal arch that survived from when the Roman Via Augusta ran through the municipality. Vallirana was another community that we drove through. 

Before we knew it we were back at the airport. We took our latest little Fiat back to the Rent-A-Car company and took the shuttle to the train station. Ken was glad to return the car, driving in Spain was a bit hairy and a bit hard to get used to.Taking the train reminded us a lot of being in Paris and all the train rides we took there. When back in Barcelona we were able to find a place with good Chinese food. To wear off all the food we ate we ended up walking on the Rambla of Barcelona. I will save talking about that famous street for another day.

The morning view out the window.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Our big adventure will restrict us to being in the neighborhood.

It is raining outside. We have to go about a block from here to the Boban, a bakery, for our "free" breakfast. They have great cafe con leche, by the way. We left our room between rain falls, as it was not raining too much when we left our room but by the time we wanted to leave it was pouring. Somehow we managed to escape from the bakery and get to our room between rain falls.

We sat around the room doing the usual to amuse ourselves, either being on the computer working on the blog or doing Spanish. It was cozy and comfortable and nice to do little of anything.

It quite raining again and we decided lunch was in order. Ken is good at finding great little restaurants. The place we went to was very highly rated, reasonably priced and wow, was it good - Les Truites. It is a restaurant serving Catalan and Spanish food, Cantalan being food from Catalonia, the province of Spain that we are in. In fact, many of the signs here are both in Spanish and Catalonian. We walked in and were the only ones there. The locals eat lunch a bit later than at our usual schedule. The owner, cook or waiter could discuss with us in a combination of Spanish and English exactly what the food of the establishment was. We had a sample plate of nine different omlettes, which here in Barcelona are called les truites. He even brought out the type of pan they are cooked in, a common looking frying pan. I had eggplant, mushroom, potato and salmon omelettes and Ken had others that were more meat oriented. With that we had a baguette type bread with a reddish type sauce on it plus the house "negre" wine (negre being black in the Catalan language but to us was really red wine, likely home made). The "truites" were really like extra puffy or taller omelettes without being flipped, having the ingredients mixed thoughout. We enjoyed our lunch immensely.

It rained much of the afternoon. We are not feeling cheated by the rain. Our entire trip has had little in the way of precipitation so this rain is just a little blip on our radar.

We went out and about at supper time to find a good meal. We must be in a great neighbourhood here in Barcelona. This time we had supper at Pim Pam Burger, supposedly the best burgers in Barcelona. We split a veggie one and were plenty full. This is also an area were many people walk the multitude of cute dogs. Many are small with lots of Yorkshire Terriers.

Thursday, October 1, 2015
We took the bus to downtown Barcelona to the Canadian consulate to vote.

The consulate office was in a huge building, but small office compared to London. It was emotional to see the Canadian flag.

We were on the edge of the  Dreta de l'Eixample neighborhood, first area to be built outside the medieval area and it is a swanky area now. Then on to the Rambles de Canaletes, which led us into the Gothic quarter (E Gotic) where we were planning to spend much of the day. We did our usual of ducking into some hotel and taking shots of great furniture of art. The buildings were amazing in their architecture. We came to the Roman gates called Porta Praetoria which has part of an ancient aqueduct attached. I snapped a shot of the moon that is part of a Joan Bossoa Barcino sculpture near the gate. It was very crowded with people in the area for two reasons. There was a antique fair going on under marque tents and guitarists playing flamenco music. This was an area also very close to the famed Cathedral of Barcelona (groundbreaking 1298). Sides of the cathedral has base relief murals. We saw fountains on the walls of buildings and fancy balconies or bridges attaching building together over narrow streets. We saw fancy shops and not so fancy shops located on the little alleyways in the Gothic Quarter. It was very well done and a pleasure to walk through. We saw Palau De La Generalita the seat of the Catalan government. We also found ourselves in the San Pere Caterina i la Ribera area, again with narrow streets and small shops. Here we saw two of the cutest pooches waiting for their master outside a barbershop. They were touching bottoms and sitting forlornly looking in the window. After lunch it was off to the Passeig de Lluis Companys which is a promenade with amazing metal light fixtures and palm trees. Included is an arch de triumph. There is a painted map right on the cement passage way walk. We then found ourselves in Citadel Park. The building were of outstanding detail but some appeared to not be in use any longer likely because of age.

Heading  back to the Gothic district we saw a flock of parrots. Perhaps at some point they escaped from the zoo nearby. They were definitely now of the undomesticated variety. Anyone that walked by just had to snap a few photos of these lovely, green birds. That was close to the Park De La Ciutadella where we saw huge roots on trees. From here to the Barrio o el Born, described by airB&B as a neighbourhood with an artistic edge and a noble past. We found a wonderful, old building (of which there are many) that has flamenco music and dancing at night.
The El Born barrio has the Picasso Museum where we might go on Sunday.

By this time we were very tired and needed a break. We tried the roof top terrace of one hotel which was not open to serve beverages but allowed us to take pictures of their wonderful red flowers. From here we ended up in the El Raval neighborhood. There we went into the lobby of a hotel with a nice mosaic water feature. We wondered to Placa De George Orwell but settled on the Placa Reial for a rest and a beverage. Placa Reial is a big plaza with many tall palm trees and wonderful sidewalk cafes. This 19th century plaza is twinned with Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City. 

After resting we walk much of La Rambla a famous, upscale walkway in Barcelona. This walkway is quite crowded and has sidewalk cafe, people selling things such as flowers, etc. The boulevard is where all this takes place which gives more room for everything to happen.

On to Mercat St. Josep La Boqueria (a huge mercado) with venders selling fruit, veggies, take home meals, meat, fish, spices, nuts, dried fruit and much more. Everything seemed to be in perfect or and very clean. This is where we ate supper. We walked more of La Rambla and took a Metro home.

After arriving home we checked and we walked almost fifteen kilometres.

Friday, October 2, 2015
Where we are staying is in the district of Sant Gervasi one of the biggest in Barcelona.

Sant Gervasi is located on the north-west of the city. When we eventually made it outside we decided to go out for a late lunch. It was brighter and sunnier than other days have been so we took note of the old buildings in our district. The districts seem to be an amalgamation of small towns of villages that become the big city of Barcelona. We walked only a few blocks to a Chinese restaurant and ate there. By the way, no one seemed to be eating at this time of day - perhaps we were too early. Most open lunch places were very wheaty, like bakeries offering sandwiches, etc.

Taking the bus back downtown we again ended up at the Rabias de Canaletes but this time much closer to the Mediterranean Sea. The Sea colour is more of an azure blue compared to the Pacific Ocean. There was a marina of sailboats, both old and new. We walked on a very modern, arty bridge down by the water - Port Vell was the area. The Mall of Spain I am sure was wonderful, we kind of walked in and walked out. We were more interested on the outside goings on. Close to all this is the Columbus Tower which was to honour Columbus when he returned from America. In that area were vendors both under marque tents and also vendor off blankets on the ground. Interesting knock offs or not, who knows.

We walked along the most amazing malecon, mostly topping all others that we have seen. We saw a fellow who had coloured Doves in pastels. Not sure how he did that, dipped in Kool Aide, painted them, do not know but the birds seemed healthy and wanting to stick around him. I was cautious to stop and rest my ankle many times. We walked to many of the districts that we were in yesterday. It was like a whirl wind tour of our rambling yesterday.

We finally arrived back at the mercado and that is where we ate supper. We saw interesting sights from horse-drawn carriages, flower blossoms dangling from strings hanging from a second story window, watermelons carved in unique ways to what looked like a castle from medieval times. Even though after we left the malecon we visited some of yesterday's sights there were unusual additions which I am glad we did not miss.

We found a place to sit in an open courtyard behind the mercado. We had the joy of watching playful dogs and owners enjoy each others company after a long day.

Ken was able to locate the #58 bus to take us up to our neck of the woods. It was dark, we saw a big round fountain that was lite up green. We saw the hustle and bustle of the city in the evening. Barcelona is a city you look forward to seeing the next day.

Saturday, October 3, 2015
Some days Ken will go and pick up our breakfast from the bakery.

That means that I do not get out of the building until we actually head off into town. When we headed off into town it was just after lunch this day. We checked out the Mercat (Catalan for Mercado, likely obvious...) de Sant Gerasi. It was kind of meaty for vegetarian's tastes. In fact, many places sell these different cuts of meat. They have salted and dried rear legs of pigs hanging in restaurants, meat stores, in mercados, etc. They have little stands that hold the meat while they cut very thin slices off for sandwiches, etc. I have to kind of ignore it, what can I do.

The Apple Store is our big destination for the day. It is on two levels and big. You really must stick with your appointment time that was prearranged because The Store gets so many customers requiring the Genius Bar. They tried to be helpful and did succeed with Ken. We looked at the Beatspill and are still undecided if we should purchase one. While looking somehow Ken accidentally set off the alarm which involved security. Not sure if that is good security or bad.

Yesterday Ken found a thrift store not far from Apple. That is where we headed to next. It had just opened. I have to can not beat American, west coast thrift stores and that is still true. We found nothing of true interest. In fact, when Ken was finishing his Apple Store experience I headed back there for further thrifting but still found nothing.

While waiting for our appointments we wondered around downtown Baracelona in similar areas to yesterday, just did not go as far. Here is a couple of  highlights. We were in Paca De Catalunya where we saw a swarm of pigeons on a lovely plaza. We also were at Ramblas de Canaletes, seeing more gothic architecture. Again we saw flowers and blossoms hanging from ropes from the top of a building as a decoration. We also saw some huge wicker basket (about ten feet high) covered in roses. We again returned to the mercado that we ate supper at and we ate an economical, tasty lunch.

We returned up to Sant Gerasi area where we are staying and by bus this time. We got to see more of the sights than if we went by Metro. It was slow but many more visuals.

I wanted pizza for supper. We did not have to go far, maybe a block and a half. It is supposedly one of the best pizza places in town. Again American is best, best pizza has tons more cheese and toppings even though this was good pizza.

Sunday, October 4, 2015
We woke up early but lazed about and had a late start to the day.

The rest of the day, once we were on the bus into town, kind of morphed into more than we expected. Our initial plans were to go to the Picasso Museum because on the first Sunday of the month they offer to the first 1000 guests, free tickets. What a concept! We would have had to pay over $50.00 CAD to go to the Museum had they not had this special offer happening today. Ken planned our bus experience do that we ended up close to the Museum. Arriving at the Museum, after a brief walk, we discovered a very long line-up then saw that people had to wait once they got their tickets, too. That was it, no couple hour line-up for us and off we went.

Being the creatures of habit that we are we found Mosquito, the Oriental restaurant we ate at a couple of days ago. Another wonderful soup with either shrimp or veggie wonton type wraps and we consider ourselves fed. We also found a bakery with wonderful meringue and hazelnut cookies for me and chocolate cookies for Ken - yum. Thought we better check out the Picasso Museum line-up, still long. Off we went toward the Mediterranean Sea.

We were sidetracked. We found El Born Centre Cultural, which almost fifty years ago was Mercat del Born. They had free entry today, too. The structure itself is an amazing looker with lots of iron work, outside and a tall spiral staircase inside. Go inside and you find a stone ruin of the city from the early 1700s, essentially an archeological site. The Mercat del Born was built over top of the market from the 1700's. Europe is so great at having preserved history that goes far back in time. Where as Canada is not old enough to have had much of a market from that time period. The Cultural Centre, according to its website, "is principally an archeological site showing he remains of La Ribera neighbourhood when it was destroyed by the invading troops of Felipe V after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714..." It contains many artifacts such as, wall and floor tiles, sewing supplies, dishes, books, pottery, etc.

Back to the Picasso Museum for a look at the line-up, yup there still was one. The line-up seemed to be moving so we decided to wait it out and go to the Museum. We must have waited in total about an hour to get tickets (they were free) than another hour to actually be able to go in to the Museum, we had a set time we could go in. I know, crazy to have waited so long but if you have been reading this blog's other posts you know we have not waited long for other museums. We just will not do the wait thing. Since it was free and we have limited time left in Barcelona. After looking through the Museum store, sitting around on a spare seat, of which there were few we finally were able to climb the stairs up to the Picasso exhibit. This Museum houses one of the most extensive collections of work of the Spanish born artist Pablo Picasso. According to Wikipedia the Museum itself was housed in five adjoining medieval palaces in Barcelona's La Ribera. On the outside entrance you could see pointed arches, like something you would see in a fairytale, including remnants of arches and a staircase on the inside. The collection did not include his famous works but did have a retrospective of his earlier works plus more.

Once we left that Museum we stumbled literally from tiredness to another wonderful site. The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar which, too, was in the Ribera district. It was built between 1329 and 1383 and is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic, a wonderful, stylish building. The stained glass shone and the arches were amazing. As you can see a day can get away on you and change into doing lots from small plans that were made early in the day.

Tiredness had set in as dusk began and we headed back to the dorm by bus.

Monday, October 5, 2015
Ken spent the morning in front of the computer.

He was booking our departure from Europe back to Canada. Here is the rough outline. We will be in Rome so we will fly from there to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to Reykjavic, Iceland, then we will fly to Toronto onward to Regina. We will be spending way too much time in the air. Since we obviously flew here we will fly back having some idea of the length of the trip. From now one each little bit of the trip is dependent on some other detail, it has become more complicated. We even figured out some details, not finalized of how we will get to Moose Jaw.

We discovered a wonderful lunch spot about half a block from our dorm room. It was called El Fornet and they had a lunch special on. I had a fabulous spinach quiche and a most unusual and fabulous salad. I have to tell you about the salad. It comprised of a bed of greens with walnuts, raisins and a kind of cut up jellied candy. On top of the greens was a round cheese about four inches across that had been baked. It was Cabra cheese made from goat milk (I usually dislike goat cheese). It was so different and so good. Cabra is a Spanish pasterized, table cheese which has been aged one month.

We went to Park Guell, a once modernisme housing development designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1900, built for Eusebi Guell. Gaudi was a leader in the field of architecture and was putting Catalonia in the fore front. It is on a hill or mountain overlooking the sea and the rest of the city of Barcelona. It was to be a housing development for the well off of Barcelona. The exclusivity and lack of transportation up to this area did not really make it viable so work stopped in 1914, again initiated by Guell. His heirs offered it to the city of Barcelona that acquired it and made it into a park. Only two homes were built in Park Guell, Gaudi's home being one of them. You can buy tickets and tour the house, we did not. It has been only recently that the city has sold ticket for tourists to go into the park, they are reasonable at €8 to enter, but you are assigned a time for entry. Ours was 5:30 pm, yes we should have gone earler. That meant that we were wondering around the free part of the park for about two hours on this hot sunny day (it was cloudy most of the day, but not while we were at the park).

The Park features some smaller buildings, one being a gift shop. They are decorated in mosaic tiles. Everywhere are pathways built in and around stone pillared arches and walls. It is a real feat of engineering. Much of the stone work looks rather rough but once you are let into the part of the park that was finished you see the final product - smoothed out, mosaic tiled walls, benches, etc. The Catalan vault is a beauty which is in the area of the entrance way with its water features of fountains and the stairs. There is a huge mosaic lizard. You get to see 86 striated columns with a mosaic roof. There are unusual iron works in the form of gates. A enormous open area is surrounded by an undulating bench of mosaic tile where events for the public used to take place at the turn of the 20th century. It is so worth the visit, the wait, the annoyance of so many people walking in the sites of your camera and the heat or whatever weather. The pictures will be worth more than my description can provide.

A few shots of the apartment.

So nice to have an elevator.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015
We finished packing up our belongings ready to be on our way from Barcelona.

Before leaving our dorm we decide to ride the elevator to the top floor. From the Mirador on the roof we are able to look out for a wonderful Mediterranean Sea view. Looking away from the Mediterranean we could see the big belltower of the church called  La Bonanova Church in the neighbourhood of Sant Gervasi Bonanova, Barcelona. We could see up on the a green hill another church in the distance and also a huge radio tower.

We took the metro from our neighborhood to downtown Barcelona. We did a bit of walking downtown when we got there and we passed by the Gaudi house, Casa de Batllo, that we had seen previously in the Passeig De Grarcia area. I was fine with just having seen the house on the outside.

We took public transportation out to the airport to get our Rent-A-Car from Hertz. Ken drove us back to the dorm so we could pick up our suitcases, and then we went one last time to the little bakery to have a snack and some coffee.

We were pretty well exclusively on the toll road from Barcelona all the way to Valencia. The toll booth area is quite different from that of Mexico's tollbooth. You are giving your money to a machine which does accept a credit card. There's no place to really stop and get a drink or use the washroom, no one trying to sell things to you, it is quite spartan. We did stop at a service station that had a huge restaurant. The restaurant was unusual from what you'd see in North America. It had fresh squeezed orange juice to drink and you paid for your food at one price, as it was served buffet style.  

Once in Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, we could tell that it was a real farming area. We checked out four other hotels before we found the one that we are staying at, which is the Best Western Albufera. This hotel is on the edge of Valencia about 15 minutes drive from downtown. It is very reasonably priced and includes a breakfast buffet.

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