Being in Amsterdam, if one decides to travel abroad, then there are few cities which can match the fame and glory that Amsterdam has. Barcelona is one of them! Barcelona is capital of Catalunya, an autonomous state(community) in Spain. One strong reason to visit Barcelona was presence of our friend Navneeth, who is doing PhD there. So We could have (free) shelter and guide!
Day 1: 12th April 2013: Departure, Dementia and Delight
Our flight was 21:15. We (Koustubha, Roshan and I) left our rooms at 18:30. We found ourselves at Schiphol when it was just 10 past 7. We preferred having dinner there because our short-duration flight would not offer us a dinner. Roshan and Koustubha were full of funny stories of their college days, making our time spent in good humour. To get the boarding pass, we had to walk a lot to find out *counter* of Vueling Airlines, which, in our opinion, was given an odd position. Security checking was not as strict as it was in India. So it was quick.
We did not mind waiting for more than an hour due to duty-free shops and beautiful figures all around. Observing and mocking people around is favorite hobby of Roshan, which made us laughing all the time.
Aircraft was rather small and attractive Spanish girls welcomed us in. We were keen to record loud and funny announcements running in Spanish, which was then sounding like quarrels. I got a window seat as always. Rosha and Koustubha slept after making fun of a bald man sitting next to us. I started writing diary. We went over the France and reached Barcelona just after midnight. We had some difficulty in searching for right exit. We followed the way shown by Spanish word “Salida” (which means exit). It was surprising that even Airport did not have directions written in English. Navneeth had come to receive us at Airport with his friend Shiraj. Once we were out of the huge *campus* of Airport, I felt like coming in the Pune, such was the breeze at that night and atmosphere. Shiraj found us a cheap means of transport (late night bus service) which led us to the nearest metro station. I guess it was “La Espanya”. The station reminded us of the train station as shown in the movie Matrix.
Metro station (La Espanya)
We bought a three-day unlimited travel card there (for 20 Euros) and got a break of ten minutes a metro station. Because it was friday night, Trains and metros were overflowing. We got a red-line metro going towards Santa Eulalia. We were about to get down from the metro, when Roshan realized that he had forgotten his bag at “La Espanya”. Luckily he had his passport and wallet with him. We lost our battery chargers and he lost his clothes. Shiraj was fluent in Spanish and he tried his best to enquire about the bag. He telephoned station-masters, sent some security-guy to check out the platforms we had been waiting. No success! We walked to Navneeth’s room from “Santa Eulalia”. Once we realized that Roshan did not lose any valuable stuffs and that he was advising Koustubha about luggage, we started pestering him and made fun of him. Though it was 1:30 am when we reached Navneeth’s home, Shiraj made tasty ROTIs and spicy Egg-Burji, which touched our heart making their way into our stomach. After many days, I was chatting with friends face-to-face and had a great time. Friday night of Barcelona was happening indeed!
Day 2: 13th April 2013: Camp Nou, La Rambla and La Espanya (Sport, Shopping and Eyeful fountain)
We started off pretty late, at around 11:30 am. Navneeth’s friend Awais also accompanied us. The first attraction was “The Camp Nou”, the stadium of Football Club Barcelona (FCB). It was at walkable distance from his home. Unlike in Amsterdam, it was bright sunny day and there was crowd on streets (unlike Amsterdam) and we enjoyed the walk. We felt like taking photos and we did, because Barcelona does carry a look of an Indian city (like Pune):
Look of Barcelona-City
Though there was no big match going on, the campus of Camp Nou was crowded. I had little to do there, for I did not know any player other than Messi and my knowledge of football is quite messy. My friend Roshan is a big football fan and he made us explore the big shop there having various sport equipments (with names of players, FCB logo etc.) and mementos. I preferred taking pictures (for Facebook) in the campus.
Statue at Camp Nou
Camp Nou Entrance, FCB, Barcelona
On our way to University Polytechnica Catalunya (UPC), we saw a football match between some local clubs. The path had steep ascent, which was again unlike flat Holland. Roshan noted that Barcelona is hilly as he observed. We questioned his observation skills by taunting him with the “lost bag incident”. Navneeth’s university was almost at the top of a hill. He merely wanted to collect his I-pod from his room. Saturday had made university dull. After a short drinks-break, we started our search for creation of Antony Gaudi- The Güell Pavilions. Navneeth had some difficulty in finding the right path; but we were happy to walk on that Sunny day:
Walk from Cam Nou to Gaudi’s creation-Guell Estate
Antony Gaudi was a Spanish Catalan architect whose contribution to the field of architecture can hardly be exaggerated. His art is capital force behind most of the tourist places in Barcelona. One of his early patrons was count-Eusebi Güell. Güell had an estate in the Les Corts district of the small town of Sarrià (now part of Barcelona). Gaudí was commissioned to remodel the house for which he proposed an Orientalist design, somewhat reminiscent of Mudejar art [wiki]. This house is known as “Guell Pavilions”.
Guell Estate (designed by Gaudi)
After taking some pics there, we went to see a nearby building which is kind of hanging garden in Barcelona (it has floral plants in balcony of every floor). Unfortunately we could not see its best view (flourished with colourful flowers) but we could imagine its beauty with flowers:
La Rambla was next on our itinerary. It’s a long street having similar trees on both sides and myriad of shops which kind of forms an explorable market there. There we found various street artists, jugglers and much more.
La Rambla street
One end of this street is the port of Barcelona. There is a tower with a bronze statue of Columbus on top of it. It is said that Spanish government-funded Columbus to start his “the voyage”, which eventually ended up in discovery of America. We had some funny picture moments here; especially on the Lion statues around the Columbus monument.
Columbus Monument (Port Vell)
Port of Barcelona was very crowded and it was good to watch (by crowd I mean what you guessed). Sun was shining bright and we had sun-bath for around one hour. We were lucky enough to witness unfolding of the bridge which allowed one of the ships to pass through. On our way back from the port, we ate the famous chocolate brunch-“waffles” at the bank of port.
Port of Barcelona
By six in the evening, we were at La Espanya, for magic fountain of Montjuïc. The fountain is situated below the national art museum of Catalunya on the Montjuïc hill and near the Plaza d’Espanya. This plaza is one of important squares of the Catalunya. It is where Fira de Barcelona can be found, where GSM Mobile World Congress has been taking place since 2008. It is, in my opinion, the hottest spot in the Barcelona where people of all different tastes can find something. We preferred to climb up the hill and see the view of city from there. It reminded me of hills in Pune like MIT and SIT.
Montjuïc hill top
Light and music performance with dancing fountain is arranged every evening between seven and nine. Montjuïc hill was quite big and we could not cover it entirely. Olympic ring – the Olympic stadium for summer 1992 was one of the notable sites. There were sculptures and monuments at every corner which deserved more than a picture with them. But we were shameless enough to ignore most of them. First time in my life, I saw an orange-tree with ripen oranges. I could not resist and fetched one with a jump. It was very much childlike (not childish) thing, which made me a bit nostalgic. We made sure we attend the 8.30 pm show (last show) of the magic fountain. It was dusk of the evening, perfect time to appreciate the impression of the serene place. I have no words to explain/exaggerate the magic in the environment, that fountain had brought. Proposals and exchange of red roses was going on all around the fountain. The charm in the crowd was awesome. I would recommend this place for every couple to visit once in their life. The music, the lights, lively water, everything was enchanting.
With the peace within ourselves, we quietly left the place and started our quest for restaurant having TAPAS – speciality of Spain. “Happy Bar and Grill” was the name of restaurant we found ourselves in. TAPAS is any vegetable fried in Spanish style. Chilly Tapas was the most delicious. Shiraj came to receive us at the restaurant. He led us through the infamous streets and certain lanes of Barcelona, that we would otherwise miss. The pub he was talking about, was unfortunately closed and there were some police near the pub. We were tired due to the day-long walk anyways, so we decided to go home. We planned for the next day. Booked tickets for the church (Sagrada Familia) online.
First day in Barcelona was perfect. It could not have been planned better. Kudos to Navneeth for the plan!
Day 3: 14th April 2013: Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and the beach (Gaudi’s creations and artifacts)
The day started with my foolish play for hurrying our journey towards the church. I went to print out the tickets that we booked online. I telephoned Koustubha pretending to be detained by police on street. I wanted them to hurry up so that we could leave early. They came searching for me in haste, and found me waiting for them on street. I told clearly that I wanted them to tidy up quickly and it was a little tomfoolery. Then it was their turn: Navneeth, Roshan and Koustubha did not believe my story. and the worse thing was none of them was actually ready for starting our excursion. So we started late, at around 11 in the morning.
The church was scheduled to be closed by 2 pm because of some ceremony. Our ticket was valid between 11 and 1. We reached there early and had some time for breakfast. Spanish coffee in a restaurant near Sagrada Familia energized us for the day. We entered the church after midday and spent an hour and a half in man-made natural (!) beauty.
Sagrada Familia Church
Nature is the theme for this church. Its construction started in 1882 and is still under construction! Antoni Gaudi was the architect who combined Gothic art and Art Nouveau (international art, originally French) in the design of the church.
Sagrada familia is a Roman Catholic church of holy family. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and attracts millions of tourists every year (probably making its construction even slower).
Every artifact in the church was something that we find the nature.
Following is the nave in the Sagrada Familia with a hyperboloid vault. Inspiration from nature is taken from a tree, as the pillar and branches symbolise trees rising up to the roof.
Roof of the church from inside
Spiral staircase resembling the shell is another example.
Shell like staircase at one of the tower of Sagrada Familia