Saturday May 1
Today is the first overcast day we have had in Barcelona since we arrived, and there have still been periods of sunshine. It has been a wonderful afternoon for exploring. We just started walking and ended up at Parc de la Ciutadella which is fairly near our apartment. There were people all over the lawn areas, just sunning, and almost everywhere we turned there was an incredible building, sculpture, or fountain. Here we are in front of a huge fountain with many figures spewing water and a huge golden chariot with horses and a historical figure, but we never found out who.
On a nearby plaza was their version of the Arc de Triomphe:P
The zoo was also in this park and by the time we had walked around the perimeter of it, we were pretty tired.
On some other days of exploring we have come across street vendors and have bought a few items because they were artistic and priced reasonably. Here is Elaine at the stall of a gal who makes some pretty painted leather belts and necklaces:
And at Park Guell there was this innovative way to display earrings for sale:
One of the main occupations here seems to be sitting at outdoor restaurants with a coffee, beer, glass of wine or a meal and chatting the hours away. There seems to be a few tables and chairs in nearly every open sidewalk space that is wider than usual.
The weather has been sunny and warm for most of this week, so everyone has been reveling in it and the open-air seating has been very popular.
In our little apartment in the El Born district, we have been enjoying trying many of the local delicacies. Here is one of the wines recommended by our local supermarket/wine shop and we have found it to be much to our liking:
There are many different kinds of olives on offer, sometimes in deli windows and sometimes in buckets, such as these:
One of our favorite kinds has both green and black olives, little pickles, and small onions in it.
In our last blog entry we mentioned that we had been to Park Guell, which was created by the most famous Barcelona artist and architect, Antonin Gaudi. A few days ago we walked over to several of his other buildings. They are so different, they stand out from all the other buildings on the street. Here is the front of the one called Casa Batllo:
The balconies and windows in the front are very unique and distinctive:
There was such a long line we decided to skip the interior, although we saw some pictures of it and it was so amazing that we hope to see it on another visit. The house next door to it was by another architect but also distinctive.
Just down the street is another of Gaudi’s buildings called La Pedrera. It is not nearly as colorful as it doesn’t have any of the glass mosaic pieces decorating the front.
It’s main feature are the wrought iron balconies.
The most incredible place we have visited so far was Montserrat. This is a monastery complex, built very high up in the mountains about an hour’s train ride away. It is astounding that it was built several hundred years ago because must have been very difficult to reach at that time. To get there we took the metro to Plaza Espanya and a train towards Manrasa and got off where the funicular or rack train left for Montserrat. You can also take the cable car instead, but if you do, you have to get off at a different train stop. The mountains are very steep, which is why a funicular is required. Here is a picture of the mountains that I took through the train window, so it isn’t very good but it shows some of the steepness.
When we arrived at the top, we could see that the large rock faces still towered over the buildings:
There were 2 more funiculars on top that we took to get to other parts of the mountain. Here is a picture of one of the funicular tracks:
And here is a view of the complex taken from one of the trails we hiked after we got off the funicular towards Santa Cova, the cave where the children saw the vision which is why this is such a holy place.
There is a very beautiful basilica, here is a picture of the front.
where there was a performance by the boys choir.
There were so many people in there that I couldn’t take any pictures of the interior splendidness, and then when we went back later to do it, the lights were off! The biggest attraction is the black Madonna, which was found in the cave (I think) and we went through the special area where they have her on display.
There were solid silver doors leading to this chamber and also many beautiful gold and multicolored mosaic insets in the walls. After all this ornateness, it was refreshing to walk outside and see this magnificent view as we left the complex.
Tomorrow is our last day here and we discovered that the Picasso Museum, which is just down the street from our apartment, has free entry because it is the first Sunday of the month. So we will be meeting our cruise friends, Duane & Dorothy McCarthy, who will be arriving on the Voyager of the Seas, and touring that museum. Then we will bring them over to see our cute little apartment, serve them some good Spanish wine and various local delicious appetizers such as black and green olives, pate, various cheeses, good baguettes, and then treat them to dinner at a local place. There are so many small and good local restaurants that it is hard to choose! They have allowed us to stay with them in Houston before a cruise and entertained us lavishly another time, so we are happy to have this chance to reciprocate. Besides, it is fun to have friends join us at various places in the world when we travel. Why don’t YOU plan to do that the next place??!! It will be India in November…..