A Travellerspoint blog

There's something about Gaudi

Barcelona is famous for the architecture of the famous Anton Gaudi. I'm not sure if the adjective 'gaudy' is derived from this, but it deserves to be!

Gaudi's style was revolutionary and involved lots of coloured mosaic, fluid curves, circles and columns, lots of cast iron, and star wars style figurines! We crafted our route and today checked out some of his more famous buildings, as well as Park Guell - an estate he designed originally as residential area for the affluent, but was quickly turned into a public park.

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Les Catalans

Barcelona is in the middle of Catalunya and home to the Catalans - a group of people, who like e.g. maoris, palestinians, native americans, do not govern their native lands. They speak their own language, cuisine, and are are quite proud of their identity. Barcelona is very much multi-lingual, and we didn't see too many signs of hostility, apart from the odd bit of graffiti..

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Pinxtos Train

Like sushi, pinxtos are bite size snacks that are eaten as a snack with drinks, but a bit like sushi, can turn quickly into a meal. Tonight we found a neat little pinxtos bar which displayed about 40 different types (but really we only saw about 15). As you walk in, they give you a plate, and as you leave, they bill you based on the number of toothpicks you have (as each pinxtos is held together with a toothpick). The temptation is to throw your toothpicks on the ground - but being responsible tourists, we didn't.

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Running up La Rambla

Got in a good 3.5km run up La Ramblas and around the waterfront. On the way back however, we got stuck at the retracting bridge which opens every evening to let boats into the dock - giving us a 10 minute breather for some stretching..

La Sagrada Famila

Gaudi's most celebrated building is La Sagrada Familia (the Sacred Family), a large cathedral that remarkably, after 100 years, is still being constructed. It's a megastructure, rising into the sky with its crazy looking spires, its facade covered in a nativity scene containing eerily futuristic sci-fi knights.

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For an extra few Euro, you may go up the lift to the top of the completed spires. For added fun, we took the winding, narrow stairs all way down!

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Posted by deepaksuma 15:17 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Streets of Barcelona

P-AVE-ing the way

Hopped on an early train this morning to Barcelona, an AVE service covering around 650km in under 3 hours, with peak speeds upwards of 300km/h. The train was brilliant - full of suited businessmen. We sat in "Tourist" class, which in itself was pretty stylish - with televisions and displays telling us outside temperature, speed and current locations.

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Streets of Barcelona

Our accomodation was a small family run hostale called "Sol y k", and was located in the middle of the gothic quarter, a couple of streets off La Ramblas. It did take a bit of finding though, and we roamed around the narrow streets for a few frantic minutes until we somewhat fortunately located our abode.

With the room not yet ready, we set off on foot to explore our area, first walking through to the fresh food market ("La Boqueria"). The colours and sounds were larger than life, with all kinds of fruit, vegetables, juices, candies, meat and fish available. They had exotic fruit like dragonfruit, longan, papaya, and the sweetest pineapples I've ever tasted.

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LLLets get ready to Ramblas!

La Ramblas is the main tourist strip of Barcelona and is packed full of trinket shops, clothing stores, bars and restaurants - often spilling onto the pavement "al fresco". Not to mention the thousands of people! It is meant to be a haven for pickpockets, preying on tourists as they gawk at the street artists and get caught in the crush.

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La Ramblas leads right down to the coastal wharf, to an area not dissimilar to Sydney's Darling Harbour or Cape Town's V&A Waterfront. But not before you meet a mercurial pillar of a certain Christopher Columbus.

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Juicy Jones

In the evening, we grabbed a quick meal at Juicy Jones - a vegan establishment with psychadelic interior decorations. Met a really nice Nepali guy who spoke fluent Spanish, and served up good salads, soups, a vege Thali and lentil burgers - vegan food never tasted so good.

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Posted by deepaksuma 15:10 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Real Madrid

Palacio Real Madrid

I did want to see Real Madrid, but unfortunately we had just missed the local derby Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona, in which Barca had won 6-1.

The alternative was to visit the Palacia Real Madrid, the royal palace and residence of the King of Spain. Not really the same thing! Anyhow, we did have a look inside the rooms - the most impressive part being the 'Royal Armoury' - a collection of decorative and ornate swords, armour, shields, bow & arrows, and early firearms.

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Museu del Prada

We walked across town to the Museu del Prada, one of Madrid's three world class museums holding a great collection of Spanish artists including Goya, Velasquez and .. Quite an impressive museum and gallery, despite us being ignorant of the history of any of the pieces!

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Found a great little cafe/pub nearby and downed a few 'pequeno' (small) glasses of Mahou, a really smooth creamy tap beer, then upgraded to a 'grande' (larger) glass.. :)

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Loved the Madrileno life!

We had a great time in Madrid - the place really has a buzz about it that is hard to describe. The streets and alleyways are quaint and wonderful to walk about and discover.

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Posted by deepaksuma 15:02 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Livin' la vida Madrileño

Espania!

We didn't know what to expect in Spain, having only really heard of two things about it - the nightlife, and the pickpockets!

First impressions of Spain as night became day - yellow fields and windmills! Not your typical old fashioned windmills, but the giant, sleek, aerodynamic windmills and solar panels that made the spanish countryside look like something out of Star Trek.

We arrived at 'Hostal Acapulco' with no dramas, catching the metro from the train station and keeping a paranoid eye on our belongings at all times :P

Puerto del Sol and Plaza Mayor

Described as the pulse and heartbeat of Madrid, these two public squares were both in close proximity to our hostal.

Puerto del Sol was the closest - and seemed to be undergoing a serious facelift as much of the area was boarded up! That didn't stop hundreds of people hanging around though, with loads of shopping at the hundreds of stores (we counted three Zara's, two H&Ms, and three 'El Corte Ingles'!), eating ice cream, and generally passing the time on a Sunday afternoon.

We swung around to Plaza Mayor and this seemed to be much more upmarket, with nice restaurants lining surrounding an open square. In the middle we watched a group of troupe of musicians do their thing. We also had a stop by San Gines Chocalateria, and sampled the local speciality - chocolat con churros.

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La Latina

Madrileños of all ages love to party, and our advice was that things only really get going past 10pm! So at about 9.30 we headed out to La Latina, an edgy area famous for its tapas and bars. On recommendation, we tried out a pinxtos bar called Juana La Luca. Pinxtos are toasted pieces of bread with various toppings - and we tucked into a couple of their most famous arrangements, including the spanish tortilla with caremelised onions. The 'vino tinto' on offer was Rioja - fantastic!

Meson del Champinon

From La Latina we had a walk around and stumbled upon a place called Meson del Champinon, back near Plaza Mayor. Yes, the speciality was mushrooms grilled in garlic butter and chorizo! Inside, a couple of glasses of Rioja in hand, we joined in the party with a musician and some 15 or so friendly locals who were having a loud and boisterous sing-along. The music resonated in the cavernous room and they were all really good! Soon enough we got into some conversation and told them we were from Australia, and the old man blasted out a flawless rendition of Men at Work's "Land Down Under" - brilliant!

Posted by deepaksuma 14:26 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Won't forget Paris..

With a night train to Madrid tonight, we took it easy today and made a morning visit to Rue Mouffetard, one of Paris' traditional food markets. After a quick walk around, and another in the St Lazare area, we said goodbye to central Paris and went back to check out of our abode.

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Cecilia was a wonderful host and it was a pleasure staying in her home. We felt welcome from the first moment and she repeatedly went out of her way to make our stay as easy and comfortable as it could be. Thanks so much for your hospitality!

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Eurail Dramas

The day was not without drama however. In getting our Eurail passes validated for the first time, our overzealous (and non English speaking) bookings clerk proceeded to fill out incorrect dates on our pass. I frantically found help at another desk, who wrote us a correcting note. Fingers crossed, all will be well.

All Aboard

Currently en route to Madrid, train comfortable, seats reclined, and looking forward to some Madrileno style and culture.

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Posted by deepaksuma 15:58 Archived in France Comments (0)

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