Friday, March 27, 2015

Barcelona, Spain: First Impressions

Our flight and arrival in Barcelona went smoothly with no surprises, a result of John’s good planning.  We flew with Norwegian Air, and we had no complaints.  The flight was half the price of the other airlines we researched, but this is due to their pricing model which itemizes each of the amenities that passengers used to take for granted -- peanuts, pillows, assigned seating, meals, headphones.  You can get those if you pay for them, but we brought our own munchies bag and didn’t miss anything.  Movies, wifi, and bathrooms were free, in case you were wondering.  Our plane was a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, very modern, but the seats didn’t seem any bigger after 10 hours travel and sleeping in a vertical sitting position.

We caught a shuttle that transported us and our cardboard boxes with bikes and gear to the hotel  we pre-booked.  Morning found us still a bit jet lagged and the weather outside cold and drizzling.  So we opted for another night at the hotel to stay dry, assemble the bikes, and go out in search of food and camping fuel.

Negotiating the Barcelona city streets.
 The next morning was cool and breezy but brilliantly sunny, a most perfect day to start cycling to a campground on the north side of the city.  We spent the day as oddities with our fully loaded bikes negotiating the city streets.  We took a few detours, one to the top of Montjuïc where we saw the layout of the city and the steeple of probably Barcelona’s most famous sight, the La Sagrada Familia church.  We dropped down the hill and circled that same church and took in a few of the other wavy-gravy architecture by Gaudi.
View of La Sagrada Familia from Montjuïc
 We were impressed how bicycle friendly it was -- dedicated bike paths and lanes in the core of the city, even in some of the narrowest of streets.  The drivers are calm and patient -- I don’t think anyone honked at us the whole day.  They seem to be used to cyclists.  There were people on bikes, not in great numbers, but a variety -- some on folding bikes with toy wheels, others on the snappy red bike shares, as well as recreational cyclists clan in Lycra.  And once we left the main part of the city we followed the coast north on a bike path that followed the beach and separated from all traffic.  It was great to experience bike infrastructure that works.
Gaudi house in downtown area.

While the crowd was looking up at the Gaudi house, I looked doiwn and was a bit taken with the sidewalk tiles.

La Sagrada Familia, from street level.

Our next day was spent as conventional tourists.  We rode the light rail into town and took in the common attractions -- walked down La Rambla, ate paella at the central market, visited the Picasso museum, and said hello to the Columbus statue on the waterfront.

The classic Gothic lines of the old Barcelona Cathedral.

Another angle of the Barcelona Cathedral

Carzy narrow street in the medieval section of the city.

A carnivore's fantasy at the central market.

How about some chocolate?

Our vendor of choice for lunch, dipped from the paella pan on the right. 

Remnant of a Roman wall from the 3rd century used as a foundation for later construction.
Barcelona is a modern city, and from what we could see, thriving.  There was no trash, no homeless people on the streets, and there still seemed to be a bit of afterglow from the Olympics. There were plenty of trendy shops in the old city, tucked in narrow streets, the bright and shiny displays contrasting with the ancient stone walls.  But what impressed us the most is finding the few sections of Roman walls dating from the 3rd century, almost lost to time, but serving as foundations of subsequent layers of bricks and mortar.  And that is what makes Barcelona and Europe so different from home -- the juxtaposition of the old and new.  We are so ready to see more!
John cycling along the waterfront on the way to our campground north of Barcelona.

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Stan and Sharon said...

John and Doris. So much fun this morning to wake up in Queenstown NZ and read your post from Barcelona. Enjoy!

Ann said...

Sounds like you are off to a great start!! Barcelona sounds lovely and fascinating. Yes, "old" over here in the U.S. just doesn't compare. I spent a year in Scotland at the University of St. Andrews with its cobblestone streets. Now that is old!

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