Day 2 – Thursday 30 October 2008
Sagrada Familia – Hospital de Sant Pau – Park Güell – Barcelona Center
Last night I had set the alarm on my phone to 08:00. I both woke up way before that time, but didn’t get up. I’m on holiday after all! Once the alarm sounded I got up and hit the shower. I discovered that the shower wasn’t hot, it was ice cold! It didn’t matter on what temperature you turned the knob, it remained cold. It does wake you up pretty fast!
Reason enough to get dressed fast, grab the backpack and walk to get warm again!
When leaving the hostal there wasn’t anyone around to ask about the shower. Too bad, I decided to try and find someone again tonight, first it was time for some breakfast and coffee/tea.
Small shops, bakeries, bars, etc. enough around the hostal. I entered a random bakery and tried to tell what I would like for breakfast and pointed it out. The Spanish croissants don’t live up to the French ones. How do those French people do that?
When I finished breakfast I walked to a nearby supermarket to buy some supplies I could eat in between and as lunch. Also I bought a couple of small packs of fruit drinks (school trip feeling all over again).
Before I left for Barcelona I made a list (based on a book called 100% Barcelona, that a colleague had lent me, and based on things I found on the internet) of things I would like to see while I was in Barcelona. It was a nice long list so time to get started on it!
Because it was very nice weather and perfect to shoot pictures of buildings and views I decided to go to the Sagrada Familia first (as it was around the corner anyway). The Sagrada Familia was impressive at night, but against a clear blue sky and in full daylight it’s even more beautiful!
The Sagrada Familia is the last work of Antoni Gaudi and his master piece! After Gaudi had died in an accident with a tram he has been buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia. The construction of this church started in 1881 and hasn’t been finished, it’s expected that the Sagrada Familia will be finished in 2025.
After I bought a ticket I had a look outside first and made some pictures before entering. As impressive as it was on the outside, it’s imposing on the inside as well! Stained glass gave a couple of pillars some nice colors and the stained glass itself was also very nice to capture on the camera.
When I had walked around for a while, I decided to climb one of the towers, unfortunately this wasn’t possible, and I was required to use the elevator to go to the top. It was possible to walk down. Because a tourist has to be exploited you had to pay extra (besides the €12,50 entrance (including a Gaudi museum) you had to pay €2,50 to use the elevator). Knowing that I would regret it anyway if I didn’t go up, I entered the queue and waited 15 minutes before going up the tower. When I exited the elevator I was treated to a splendid view and details that have been applied to the towers and the church.
Of course I made several pictures. A couple of other tourists asked if I could make a picture of them with their camera, I didn’t feel like giving my camera at this height to a stranger so I just made some pictures of the view.
Shooting pictures from high up in a tower towards the bottom of a shaft also provides nice pictures. A few small openings from the tower provided a nice view of details on the church and views on Barcelona.
I discovered a nice piece of stained glass, in order to make a picture of that you had to hold out your camera through an opening. If one would drop a camera from this height it would not survive. But risk is part of the game if you want to photograph nice things!
I used the narrow winding staircase to go down the tower. From the bottom up I made some photos of the staircase. Next I walked towards the rear of the church to gaze at (and photograph) the beautiful decorations and details. After spending about 2 hours at the Sagrada Familia I left the site and walked to the next item on my list.
This item was the same spot that I visited last night, Hospital de La Santa Creu I Sant Pau. It was just a short walk from the Sagrada Familia. The hospital complex is also very beautiful in the daylight, although the pink ceiling at the entrance had a nicer touch at night. This time I did bring my camera and I made some nice pictures. I used this peaceful location to drink and eat something.
The complex was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The complex that’s made up of a main building and several pavilions is the largest complex of modern Catalonian architecture. The origin of the first buildings dates back to 1401. In 1997 the Hospital de Sant Pau was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
After resting a bit and looking around (half an hour) I decided to go to Park Güell next. I didn’t have any idea on how to get there from Hospital de La Santa Creu I Sant Pau on foot. Fortunately something like TomTom exists, so I started it up and it guided me to Park Güell, a walk of 2.5km (took me just under half an hour). En route I passed a small park where half the people of an elderly home (only men, there wasn’t a woman around) playing a game of jeu de boule.
Another thing I witnessed was how some drivers in Barcelona apply the traffic rules. An ambulance was approaching with sirens. Everyone did their best to get out of its way. But the street was very narrow and didn’t provide enough room for evasive maneuvers. The person in the car that was waiting for the red light should have driven on, regardless of the red light. The street ahead was empty so it wasn’t a problem to do so. But there was no motion in the car at all! Angry drivers, pedestrians and neighbors expressed their feelings on this behavior. The car still didn’t move. When the driver of this car was fed up with the honking and shouting of people, he got out of the car and made a gesture that his decision of not moving was final. When the light finally changed he drove on and when the ambulance tried to pass him, he nearly blocked / hit the ambulance! Idiot…
Park Güell is a very big tourist attraction, the crowd at the entrance confirmed this. Fortunately the average tourist only hangs around the entrance and at the famous mosaic benches. As I don’t see myself as the average tourist I walked through the entire park. I encountered nice structures and (almost) at the top of the hill the park is on, I enjoyed a spectacular view of Barcelona! While there was loads of people at the bottom of the hill, at the top there were only a handful of people. Lovely!
The park has been designed by Gaudi, on the request of Eusebi Güell, a member of a rich and aristocratic family from Barcelona. The park was constructed between 1900 and 1914 and is just as the Sagrada Familia and Hospital Sant Pau listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
When the view had been written into my memory and captured on camera I walked down hill through the park (by a different route). I made a stop at the mosaic benches because I wanted to have a picture of myself on one of them. A friendly (Dutch) tourist made the picture.
At the entrance of the park I made some more pictures of objects displayed there, not entirely to my satisfaction, as there were too many people there.
After walking around for about an hour (up & down hill) in the beautiful Park Güell I sat down at a terrace to see what I would do next.
I decided to go to the centre of Barcelona, one has to visit La Rambla as well!
Once in the centre there were several things I had on my list I wanted to see that were very close to one and other. After a ride in the subway I exited the station of Liceu and walked across La Rambla in the direction of Plaça Catalunya. There is enough to see and to on La Rambla. I would visit Plaça Catalunya later on. I noticed a market, I didn’t think this one was on my list (later I discovered it was – Mercat de la Bodqueria). A busy market with a very wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and other things.
Seeing all those nice pieces of meat and fresh jumbo shrimps made me hungry! But not place to cook it, I made some pictures to remember it.
After browsing the market for half an hour I walked on through the narrow streets (that all look alike) of the centre. I wanted to see the old hospital (Antic Hospital Santa Creu) that had a nice courtyard. It wasn’t a nice as I hoped for, probably because it wasn’t summer time anymore. It was peaceful though.
Via La Rambla I walked to Plaça Catalunya.
La Rambla is a very busy and touristic street as every major city has. Filled with street performers, tourist crap and other stuff for (very) high prices.
When I reached Plaça Catalunya I sat down and looked at people. A good very good spot, as many subways, busses and streets converge here. I had another look on the list of things. A lot of things had already been crossed off… Probably because I have a high walking pace (ideal weather, 18C, dry and some sun) and thing’s to see aren’t spread out across Barcelona.
I walked away from Plaça Catalunya, towards an undiscovered network of more narrow streets I hadn’t seen yet. No idea where I would end up, but certain I would encounter something worth seeing! After walking for about 10 minutes I did. Palau de la Música Catalana (concert building), on the internet I had seen that inside this building there is a stunning stained glass roof in the concert hall. Unfortunately the entrance fee for a tour was €10,- and it wasn’t allowed to make pictures inside. So I just made some pictures of the building itself, also very nice, but not as nice as the stained glass.
In the book I brought with me, I discovered that near the Palau de la Música Catalana one of the most important churches in Barcelona: Catedral Santa Església is located. The church is located next to a big square and pictures in the book photos showed an impressive building, in real life the church itself was being renovated. A result of this renovation was that the entire church was turned into a construction site, not worth of a photo. I did peek inside, but didn’t enter as they asked an entrance fee here as well. I always thought that the house of God was accessible for everyone? I did manage to make a snapshot when someone exited the church. Foot in between the door and let the camera do its thing. Before anyone could comment on this I was gone.
When navigating through the narrow streets, by accident I encountered a nice courtyard at the ministry of culture. Something that should have been listed in the book as it was interesting to see.
I continued my journey through the streets to end up at a square where I ordered some wine with garlic bread and olives. An appetizer for dinner that would follow later on that day. People in Spain don’t eat at 18:00 like is done in The Netherlands, but around 20:00. The olives I tried in The Netherlands didn’t apply to me, the ones here differ from the ones from back home, they taste much better in Barcelona!
After relaxing for about an hour it was time to explore the city some more. As dusk was already starting to set in at 17:30 there wasn’t much light left to make pictures. I walked through the narrow streets again and suddenly found myself at La Rambla, at the exact same subway station where I got off the subway earlier that afternoon. I decided to walk towards the harbor towards the statue of Columbus, the to-do list stayed in the backpack so there would be something left for the remaining days in Barcelona. After looking at Columbus I walked through the harbor.
Given the fact that it had become dark and I did feel something that felt like hunger I walked back in the direction of La Rambla to find something to eat in one of the many narrow streets.
A colleague of mine told me of a nice tapas bar near the statue of Columbus “Classic Gothica”, located in a street of Carrer Ample, after searching and asking around for about 20 minutes I gave up. I ended up at a square where two restaurants had (already) opened their doors. I sat down at one of them.
I tried figure out where the restaurant was by looking in the book, but couldn’t find it. I did discover that I wasn’t far from another restaurant (according to the book a famous and good fish restaurant) that was also on my list: Cal Pep. Perhaps something to look for later on so I wouldn’t have to search for it tomorrow.
The book told me that it was located at Plaça de les Olles, I looked around and noticed that this was the exact same square where I were sitting right now! The restaurant only 50 meters away, closed. That’s probably why I didn’t notice it. After having a big laugh I noticed that a line of (hungry) people was forming in front of Cal Pep. So I had to be on time tomorrow!
After finishing the expensive dinner (they did served me a nice fried camembert) I used TomTom to walk to a bar that was set in fairytale forest style. En route I noticed something from the corner of my eye… “Classic Gothica”. Next time I’ll definitely ask for an address that can be put into TomTom!
When I arrived at the bar it was a bit of a disappointment, nice setup but not really a fairytale atmosphere. As it was also very warm in there. I left pretty quickly and walked around for a while, ending up at Plaça Catalunya.
I didn’t notice the fountain when I was there in the afternoon (it was turned off), now it was working and illuminated. I made some pictures of it (without a tripod). Next I walked towards an illuminated dome, after making some pictures I decided to call it a day and walked towards the subway to return to the hostal.
Once at the hostal (around 22:00) I checked if the shower was warm, unfortunately it wasn’t. I used a Dutch/Spanish dictionary (that I borrowed from a colleague) to look up the words for “cold shower” in Spanish (doucha frío). I tried to find the hostess but she wasn’t to be found anywhere. So after a cold shower it was time to get some sleep.