Barca – Barcelona

Say the word Barcelona and Messi comes to your mind. We are just back from a super trip to Spain and the best thing, we got to see FC Barcelona playing a National level match and Messi hitting a goal 🙂 What more can you ask of Barcelona 🙂

We traveled to Barcelona in the end of February. Wonderful weather – around 17° C. A pull over was needed as it was getting windy at times, slight drizzle and flakes on the first day, but such a warm change from the cold Germany !!ChalkTalkTales-46-1

On reaching Barcelona, we first headed on a day trip to Montserrat, straight from the airport – the serrated mountain with a wonderful monastery. This particular mountain has shapes which resemble human and animal figures. (Check the pic below – your creative eye is sure to observe a walking man and some faces) 🙂 If you remember reading the book – Jack and the bean stalk, where Jack climbs up the bean to find a huge castle – well this is such a place in reality. We took the cable car option to reach the monastery and from there, we moved on top via train to look at the scenic views and the monastery from the top. There are some nice trek paths that get you to pretty view points. We trekked on two of them to get some great views and lovely pictures. Looks like the boys choir of this monastery is world famous. As usual, a beautiful European cathedral and the amazing statue of the Black Madonna..

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On getting back and entering the city of Barcelona, I found it so similar to India – the apartments, the roads, the traffic, shops that do not shut on your face at the exact closing time – made me feel at home. It literally got us thinking if we were in the outskirts of Bangalore. Spain is less expensive, however the flights to Spain are expensive and neutralizes the cost 😛 Another thing I noticed was, most of the websites end with .cat – looks like Barcelona and its surroundings belong to a region called Catalonia and the people are working towards getting a separate governance for themselves. It should be interesting to see how things proceed in the future.

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The two heros of Barcelona are Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali – great modernist artists. Gaudi is ”a genius or a mad man”, you need to look at his creations to find out. We did the Gaudi tour and visited his famous works, hearing the story of his life as we went along. At last we entered the Sagrada Familia, the church which is being constructed for the past 136 years. They plan to complete it in a few more years. One amazingly beautiful master piece this is !! Gaudi has used live humans, animals and dead infants to make molds for the sculptures present in the church. His vision of creating the church like a forest, beautiful symbolization of the Bible  – I can go on and on with his amazing ventures. We did a good thing by opting for a guided tour, we got to appreciate the intricate beauty of things. B-) (The left side of the picture shows newer areas of the church, the right side with the towers were constructed during  the times of Gaudi)

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Another of Gaudi’s amazing work is the Park Guell. Walking to the entry point is a task by itself. We had some train line issues, when we went there. It is important to check well in advance about the route and plan at least 20 mins to reach the park from the train station. This park is a treasure chest 🙂 beautiful views, wonderful pieces of art.. This has served as a shooting spot for a few serials and movies.

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I need to mention this – Gaudi has broken a flat tile into many pieces and stuck it as a collage in a dent shape. Various broken items like tea cups and bottle caps have been upgraded to master pieces of art. This man is surely a genius.

The Barcelona old city, strolling in the La Ramla street, yummy Tapas (I ate vegetarian ones) and much more.. all these make Barcelona a nice place for a relaxed vacation.

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The best thing we did in this vacation was watching the FC Barcelona match in the Camp Nou – this football ground is a tourist attraction by itself, even when matches do not happen. Jam packed house and a very interesting match. Lucky for us, we got a football fan book the tickets for us at the FC official store. She suggested the best views for us and made the experience all the more interesting. Mind blowing this was !!

On the 4th day of our trip, we headed to Girona. My husband is a Game of Thrones fan. When I read that many scenes of the 6th season were shot there, I wanted to take him there. Who would not want to shoot at Girona – out of the world cute city with rustic cathedrals and ancient Arab bath houses.. This city itself is a movie set. It is good to spend a few euros more(actually double) and catch the early train to Girona. A walk in the city and on the walls around it are best done in the mild warmth of the sun. If you plan to go to Barcelona, do not miss Girona. There is a small train which will take you to important parts of the city – a sweet option if you want to have a relaxed ride.

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In the second half of the day, off we went to Figueres. This small town lodges the Dali theater Museum – an astounding collection of modern art, sculptures and jewels designed by Dali. This is more of a modern art place and non-art-freaks may not find it very appealing. We loved a few works.. and found a few very weird..

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The best thing about these artists is that.. they have blended nature in every piece of work. Makes one realize how mystic nature actually is. After enjoying the sun as much as we could, we started our journey back to snow, cold and of course – back to work !!

General tips

When you go to Montserrat, decide if you will go up by cable car or by rack and pinion and buy the appropriate ticket. The train and cable car take off from different train stops. Triple check and get down in the appropriate stop. We saw a lady miserably waiting for over an hour because she fumbled the exact stop.

Public transport is seriously the worst that I have seen so far in Europe. To switch trains in one terminus, you have to walk at least one kilometer. Soooooooooo much walking in the metro subways. Escalators move only upwards. So if you have heavy bags, you need to wait for the lift all the time. I didn’t find most of the tourist spots adapted for people with special needs.So if you have a stroller for your kid or need a wheel chair, plan accordingly. I really hated the public transport in Barcelona. The craziest thing is – there are 3 train operating companies and in some places like Figures, there are different train stations for each company’s train. The Tourist Information center will give you details about all trains, but the Information center at the train stations do not have info about the trains of the other companies !! We almost fainted when the lady at the info desk started looking into some literally torn-old file for train info 😦 I mean in this age of technology– in a tourist center.. For a place with so many tourist spots, the government should surely make better arrangements !!

If you plan to watch the FCB match, book the tickets at least a day or two in advance. Tickets fill up really fast. Nights get really cold in the stadium. Wear really warm clothing.

Barcelona, like any other tourist spot, is infested with illegal immigrants and pick pockets. Keep things safe. As always, planning your itinerary for each day and advance booking the entry tickets is the key to have a smooth sail.

Bottom line

The art works of Barcelona have inspired many creations – right from the mask in Star wars (taken from a Chimney designed by Gaudi), Game of Thrones and many more famous serials. Its a non-European-feel, European city. Colorful, crowded, relaxed and wonderful. A lovely city to be in..

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