Day 15 - Barcelona

This was a long day trip to Barcelona - sorry it didn't get posted last night, but we scraped in just before the campsite gate closed at midnight, too tired to process anything! It's also been the hardest to edit down - even now there are lots of photos - thank goodness we're on Wi Fi here (and it's working well this morning - just uploaded all the pictures in 105 seconds!). I hope our readers have a fast connection too...

Anyway, back to the story. Rosie and Bridget were keen to revisit Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, where we spent two busy days 3 years ago, and Kim hadn't been before and wanted to. So I mandated an early start - it's about 90 miles each way and only half of that is motorway, so we were up at 7:30 and on the road before 8:30. The journey down was easy enough, though there was a fair amount of traffic, especially on the road between Pals and the Autopista (motorway). But all went smoothly and we navigated ourselves to the old port and the Maremagnum shopping centre which has parking underneath. Maremagnum is built in the harbour, is quite stunning, and is a stop on the Barcelona sightseeing bus route.

However, we didn't get the bus, but walked across the Ramblas de Mar - the walkway back to the shore, which is a continuation of the Ramblas - the main shopping street of Barcelona, and also the street you walk to be seen.

At the landward end of the Ramblas are various grand looking buildings - I think this is the customs house, but it may be the port authority.

Just across the road is Columbus' Colon (that's Spanish for Column, not part of his insides). One day I'll have to get to grips with Columbus - I'm sure Seville lays claim to him as well - I think he may have been from Barcelona but sailed from Seville. But Meld thinks he was actually Portuguese!

Here we boarded one of the open-topped buses, which run 3 circular routes around Barcelona. We were on the Ruta Sud (South Route). As with most established cities, there's lots of impressive architecture...

... though palm trees lining the streets are a bit less familiar.

We passed the Gothic Cathedral, glimpsed from the bus (it's difficult to get decent pictures from a moving bus, especially when you're not allowed to stand up, and they leave lampposts and signposts and trees cluttering the views, not to mention bits of bus!)

Plaa de Catalunya is one of the main squares in Barcelona - maybe THE main square. It's surrounded by impressive buildings...

... and full of fountains and tourists (many of whom are waiting to catch the tour bus - getting on at another stop was a good move).

Driving north from Plaa de Catalunya you pass several "modernista" buildings - I think they were all designed by Antoni Gaudi, but that may not be quite right. Certainly they are eye-catching (if not weird!) and, unlike some other "modern" architecture have stood the test of time.

We got off the bus by the last of these and walked to another Gaudi building, La Sagrada Familia (the basilica of the Holy Family). Started back in the 1880s, and supervised by Gaudi until he was run over and killed by a tram in the 1920s, the building is still far from finished. (As Gaudi said, "my client is not in a hurry")

We had to queue to get in - you always have to queue - and admission isn't cheap (the fees pay for the ongoing construction work). But going in allow you to see some of the fantastic details you can't see from outside, like looking up at the crucifixion scene above the west door.

There's not a lot of stained glass yet - to be honest there's not that much glass yet! - but what there is is striking.

Slender columns based on trees stretch up to the incredible vaulted ceiling

... even if there's a lot of scaffolding there too (not much evidence of work though!).

The east end  is covered with a nativity scene - it's difficult to capture this adequately...

... maybe the details of the shepherds...

... the 3 wise men ...

... and the flight into Egypt will help.

Outside again, we joined a queue for the Ruta Nord bus which stop here, and took a last view back of the west end of the basilica.

We only went 2 stops before getting off and heading for Park Gell, designed by Gaudi for one of his sponsors. On the way up to the park we stopped off for lunch in a little cafe, a chance to sit down out of the sun and recharge the batteries.

Park Gell is really weird! All sorts of constructions at funny angles (apparently Gaudi was into paraboloids and hyperboloids - as opposed to the parabolics, hyperbolics and other 'bolics I studied on a maths course at uni).

We first visited the house in the par which is now a Gaudi museum, with artefacts relating to Gaudi and the modernista movement. (It wasn't all furniture, but these two give a good flavour).

Outside again, there is a terrace surrounded by a wavy wall decorated with a mosaic of ceramics. It's almost unheard of to get a view with no-one in it..

... ah, look who's appeared.

As we walked around the terrace above, we heard squawking from the palm trees above us. They seemed to be full off debris in the crown - then a head appeared from a hole in the debris - that explains the noises!

Descending from the park, we snapped the mandatory shot with Gaudi's famous dragon.

Back on the bus, we passed the little blue tram that runs up a hill...

... and various impressive buildings ...

... and a modern tram.

As we passed the main railway station, the temperature was still high, though it had clouded over (many of the photos from this phase turned into silhouettes of dark buildings against a gloomy sky!)

Passing the Royal Palace, the Olympic Stadium and other sites we didn't have time or energy to visit, we descended to the harbour, where two large cruise ships were berthed, lights shining through the gloom.

By the time we passed the World Trade Centre it was getting really dark (though it wasn't much after 6)

And then the heavens opened. And for some reason the bus didn't let us off at the Ramblas de Mar, from which a quick dash would have taken us to Maremagnum, but we had to stay on the bus back to Maremagnum. This may sound like a good thing, but the top  deck of an open-topped bus in a thunderstorm when it's stuck in rush hour traffic is not the ideal place to be. We all huddled in the stairwell, and when we were allowed off dashed for cover, and looked at the rain outside.

Well, Rosie and Kim didn't look back at the rain - they dashed for Ben & Jerry's. Meanwhile I queued for ages at Starbucks (only because we wanted a LONG coffee to warm us up again).

After a mooch around the shops we returned to the car and headed back towards Pals. Off the motorway we started looking for a place to eat, which wasn't as easy as it sounds (not that here was a shortage, but trying to rate them in time for me to steer the car in the right direction proved challenging for my passengers). Somewhere round the back of Palamos (having passed the back of Platja d'Aro and seen the high-rise blocks of this part of the Costa Brava) we were stuck in a traffic jam on a diversion route around some road works and saw a sign down a dead-end road for a restaurant. Kim made the decision that we should go for it, and we drove up. It proved to be a brilliant choice. Although there were only 2 other people there (who left as we arrived) this wasn't a place to avoid because nobody goes there. I think they have a busy lunchtime trade. And maybe the locals at even later than us, for it is certainly the sort of place frequented by locals. It was an old Mas, sensitively converted. It was really just like sitting in someone's (big) kitchen-diner.

And the food was superb - cooked to order, not a scrap left by anyone. And the desserts...

Anyway, we still had a little way to go when we left about 11. Not too difficult - unless you believe your GPS. Deirdre is not as well-informed about Spanish roads as about other parts of Europe. The effect was that when Pals was signed left she set us right towards Begur. Not a problem I thought, as the southern end of Pals beach touches the administrative area of Begur. However, when she tried to turn us left down a track that would have entertained Laurie and his Land Rover we realised that we had a problem. However, with signs to Sa Riera I knew that we could get through to Platja de Pals, though Deirdre didn't know a way through. We had a few false starts, ending up almost in the sea at Sa Riera, and some amazing wiggling roads up and down (looking at the map afterwards it shows "Muntanya de Begur" and it really is mountainous - not really the place to be lost late at night when the campsite gate closes at midnight. But we made it through, and it was interesting. Maybe we should go back through in daylight to see the scenery...

But then it was time for bed, for a long sleep, before our last full day in Spain.