Saturday, June 30, 2012

Barcelona & Figueres, Spain

Exploring Cataluna!

view from the top of Sagrada Familia
Amazing Artists: Gaudi & Dali……

We arrived in Barcelona central station and continued onto our accommodation to drop our bags off and start exploring the city. We booked into another AirBnB place as it was cheaper than the hostels. The place was very central, located unfortunately up a hill, but close to Alfons X metro station and within walking distance to Sagrada Familia – if you enjoy the nice long walks. We had a small room, all to ourselves, a kitchen, lounge area and bathroom that we shared with a group of 4-5 other travellers throughout our 3 night stay there.


Our first attraction of choice in Barcelona was of course, the Sagrada Familia – the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family. We walked down the straight road from our accommodation towards the grand church, you could spot it a mile away. Its creator and the brains behind the architectural genius is Antoni Gaudi. Construction of the building started in 1882, and still continues today. Your entry fees contribute towards the donations to complete the construction, and are well worth the money – even though they don’t accept credit cards at the door. Its three grand façades – nativity, passion and glory - are a wonder to marvel at while you walk around the exterior. But to go inside the church is a whole other world.

beautiful facade on the exterior of the Sagrada Familia

We highly suggest you get the audio tour, even if you get one and share like we did, since we did not have enough cash on us. The audio tour explains the mathematical and natural phenomenon behind how and why it has been built this way. The columns, the stained glass windows, the spires… Every inch of the building has a reason for its form. There is a museum section which shows the story of the church’s construction; this is a very interesting addition to the audio tour in and around the church and also the climb up one of the towers gives a nice view. You could spend hours in here, looking at all the detail both inside and out. But even just sitting inside under the columns looking up and adoring the surroundings, takes you to another world. It is a truly amazing place to see. You have to go there and experience it yourself.


amazing stained glass windows inside

After spending hours admiring the Sagrada Familia we walked down towards Ave Diagonal, onto Passeig Sant Joan to see the Arc de Triomf (the Spanish one). 

the Spanish Arc de Triomf
We then bypassed Placa de Catalunya and started our stroll down Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a pedestrian street that stretches 1.2km, filled with restaurants, shops, local artists, markets, stalls, street performers, tourists and the like. It’s a nice walk down towards the marina and interesting for some people watching and checking out the street performers and artists. Just don’t get any photos taken with them, as they might ask for money!  

street performer down Las Ramblas
Gaffa and I were getting hungry by this stage, so we decided to stop at Restaurant Egypte (not because we missed Egypt, but because they had a good paella deal going on), and we both had paella. This paella was freshly made (took about 25-30 minutes) and very filling.

seafood paella
Next we walked down to the waterfront area and across to the port. We admired the sunset, then had a look around the shops and restaurants in the area.

Marina at night
Afterwards, Gaffa wanted to take me to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic. To get there we walked all the way down Ave Paral-lel towards Placa d’Espanya. No rabbits appeared out of the fountain, but instead it is suppose to illuminate beautifully at night time. From October to April on Fridays and Saturdays every half hour from 7:00-8:30pm, and from May to September Thursdays to Sundays every half hour from 9:00-11:00pm, there is a light and music performance at the Magic Fountain. Unfortunately for us it was a weekday, and we were not in Barcelona during the weekend to see the show. But I’ve been told it’s amazing and a must see.


On our second day in Barcelona we decided to have a relaxing one. We walked down to the Park of the Citadel first. Since it was still winter, then water features still had yucky green water in them and it didn’t make for a very pretty park. We sat around for a while, then left via the Olympic Village and tried to catch a cable car down the port area, but it was closed due to refurbishment for the upcoming summer months. 

So off we went, we had to walk all the way down to the port. This time, we walked along the beach, also trying to find a toilet. FYI, in winter, there are no public toilets open. We walked pretty much all the way along the beach looking for one! We finally snuck into a hostel on the beach front and used their toilets. During our walk we did see a man peeing in the street, and just as he was finishing off, a police car came up to him to tell him off or maybe even to fine him!!!


We walked back up the Las Ramblas to Placa de Catalunya. There are many pigeons at Placa de Catalunya. I was complaining to Gaffa about how dirty pigeons were and how stupid tourists like to take photos of themselves feeding the pigeons… and then suddenly I feel a ‘plop’ on the right side of my head. I just knew it, I’d been pooped on by a pigeon! Great! Gaffa tried nicely to get it all out, but just managed to pull my hair out at the same time. Isn’t is suppose to be good luck though?

moments after this photo was taken, I got shat on!
On our third day in Barcelona we took a day trip to Figueres (Catalan for fig trees). The great artist Salvador Dali was born here, and so was the inventor of the first successful machine-powered submarine (in case you wanted to know). The main attraction in Figueres is the Salvador Dali Museum.

In true WinGaz form, we got there early, so we had a coffee (I had a hot chocolate) in a café called Dalicatessen. We went to the Museum entry early, which was good as there was already a line – mostly school students. We entered and walked around the entire museum, there is a map with a planned out route to ensure that you see every exhibit – we recommend that you follow this so you get the most out of Dali’s artwork. Some might think that Dali’s work is weird and a bit on the eccentric side, but I think it takes a lot of imagination to come up with some of the artworks he created. If you like his work you will definitely enjoy his museum. Here are few photos of his best artworks.

squint your eyes and you'll see Abraham Lincoln

how many animals can you see? (yes there are animals.....)

Portrait of Mae West

Dali's famous melting clocks

How many Asian men can you see? Can you see the tiger?
There is also another exhibition by Dali, called Dali-Jewels, this is included in the Museum price but can also be visited separately. The jewels shown are truly exquisite, and in true Dali-style, a little out there. But it’s interesting to see the jewels and also the drawings and paintings Dali made in designing them. 


the beating heart

Overall, Barcelona is a must do on any Spanish itinerary. If you’re into art, the Sagrada Familia and Dali Museum are a must visit. Roaming the famous streets, parks and plazas will also allow you to soak up the Catalun culture. 

Last Spanish stop: San Sebastian!

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