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Weekend Jaunt - Barcelona, Spain, Day 3

rain 10 °C

Today is officially my last vacation day in Barcelona and I was so ready for it to be over. The city is great and all but....I just wanted to get back to the familiar and most importantly, speak to people!!!! Yes, I was excited to return to my temporary home, Germany.

But, before I left, I had one more full day in Spain and it included touring. I was very excited about this tour as I was sure it would be a full day of adventure and fun. And, it was! The tours name is Montserrat, Wine and Sitges Day.
Sometimes I feel that staying in one place too long is a waste. If I am in a country, I like to see as much of it as I can and refuse to stay in 1 place, looking at the same things over and over again. My impatient tendencies rears her head all the time. That is why I chose this tour, to get out of the city for a day and see another part of Spain.

After a hotel breakfast, it was time for my day tour outside of Barcelona. I remembered seeing this trip offered by viator when I was initially planning my trip to Barcelona but I put it out of my mind because I was supposed to be with some friends during the weekend here but....that didn't work out. This tour was not on the top of my list at all. I really wanted to hike the Pyranese mountains but the dates and times didn't work out in the end. Little did I know I would be hiking today anyway!

After meeting the tour bus, we were on our way. The drive was approx. 40 minutes outside the city center and the first stop was, Torres Winery.
It was beautiful there. We were first shown a movie style display of their wine making process, without giving away too much details, of course. This interactive movie included all the senses with the smells of smoke (for the barrels), spring and summer (when the fruit is growing and harvested) and concord grapes (ready for picking to make tasty wine). Then it was onto a train on wheels tour to visit the wine vats and a showing of the vinyards history. The Pièce de résistance was being able to see all the barrels of wines aging in the Torres cellar. It was an amazing display. Next was the wine tasting!
We each got a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and that wine was damn good.
Light, fruity and not too dry. We had some free time afterward to explore the winery store and stock up on wines if we wished. I passed on the wines (there is more than enough in Germany to quench my thirst) but I did buy a cookbook. One of my missions is to buy a cookbook from each country that I visit and I started here. Catalan Country Kitchen by Marimar Torre was a great deal at 7.75euro as the books in the tourist office started at 13euro!

Next stop, Monsterrat. We hopped on the coach again and headed to the mountains. After about 30 minutes we were there. The rock formations were in plain view upon arrival and very impressive already. We jumped on a funicular and went up the 5ks to the top. I'm afraid of heights, but put it aside for this experience. I had to, since I knew I would not be back to this part of Spain ever again.

On a personal level, I had an awakening on the ride up to Montserrat. While looking out the window at the beautiful and wonderful formations, I all of a sudden realized why God granted me this work experience. It was to first and foremost work and do a good job and represent my origin office in an outstanding way. I was here to use the skills I possessed and learn and expand my knowledge base for my future. I was here to work with and meet some wonderfully smart, motivated and innovative people. And, I was supposed to broaden my horizons. See things that I only dreamed of. That seemed to be my "Ah, hah" moment, right on the mountain side of Montserrat.
At Montserrat, I was only interested in a few things. I wanted to see the Black Madonna and view as much of the mountain as I could. After getting off the funicular, I viewed a short movie on the history of Montserrat and the monestry. I looked around the museum a bit but lost interest.....not an art lover.

I was going to take a funicular to the top of the mountain but after wandering off, I mistakenly found the (mountain) walking path up the formation with steps. Shrugging, I decided to start climbing. I was worried I wouldn't get any physical activity today since my ass would be on a bus all day, but this hike put that worry to rest real fast. I climbed and climbed and puffed and climbed. It was really fun but since I only had 3 hours at Montserrat, I called it quits about 1 mile up the mountain.

My climb

Making my way down was scary as it had started to rain lightly and rain + Acrophobia is NOT a good combination. I climbed slowly down as the steps are very narrow and kept my eyes on each step avoiding looking at side of mountain right next to me. It took about 20 minutes to get down (I think) and the experience was harrowing but exhilerating at the same time.

I was getting hungry but skipped eating to see the Madonna at Santa Maria de Montserrat church. Once again, I stepped into a long as hell line. And, waited. And, waited and waited. I was in that line for well over an hour (but got great pictures along the way).

Then, finally, I was able to see her, the Black Madonna. I am not Catholic but I am Christian and seeing this divine statue was truly epic for me. I was in awe. This is what travel is all about for me: being mesmorized!

Looking at the time I realized I had 15 minutes to get out of the church, get something to eat, use the washroom and get back to the bus on time. I basically flew down the stairs of the basilica, took a few pictures, ran to a sandwich shop, used the washroom, bought a sandwich and drink and high tailed it to the bus, which was about 1/4 of a mile away.
Of course, I had to take a few pictures, while running, of the cloud covered mountains on the way to the bus.

After I settled in, meeting the bus with about 5 minutes to spare, I ate my sandwich and promptly fell asleep. Our next stop was the city of Sitges (pron: Seeges). Personally, this was a waste of time. We were met by a local tour guide who walked us around and explained about the modern colonization of this small fishing city.
Sitges was populated by the nouveau riche, Americanos, who made their vast fortunes in the West Indies and came back to the city to show off their incredible wealth by building huge obscure houses. I guess the tour could have been interesting but to me, it was really dry. So far I had enjoyed my day so I guess this evened the score.

After the tour, we were left with an hour and a half of free time. I wandered around and took in the beach. Sitges is supposed to be a great tourist magnet in the summer with its 7 beaches but on a day like today, freezing, windy, grey, it was just bleak and boring.
Pics of Sitges
I bought a great hot chocolate you had to eat with a spoon, walked around, looked in shops and made my way to the bus. It was time to head back.

After getting back to the city center, I walked down La Rambla, took it all in at night and went to the hotel. I packed up and fell asleep aroound midnight ready to get back to Kornwestheim and my new friends.

Posted by CanaGerm 02:19 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Weekend Jaunt - Barcelona, Spain, Day 2

overcast 14 °C

My mission this morning was taking the metro to Nou Camp. After getting ready and eating my hotel breakfast, I headed out. I needed to get to FCBarcelona today. I was told months ago by a friend here in Germany that it is a must-see if you ever travel to Barcelona so I had to see if he was correct.

From the metro, I was to take the train to Palau Reial but of course I took the wrong train! I did say I am horrible at directions and in particular, buses and trains. However, after discovering I was headed in the opposite direction(2 stops after getting on), I jumped off the train and hopped again, this time in the right direction. Within 10 minutes, I reached Palau Reial and trekked up to the FC (Fútbol Club). Now, coming from Canada and outside Toronto specifically, waiting is not really in our vocabulary. Plus, I am a very impatient person by nature so standing in a long ass line for over an hour was not appealing to me. Especially alone but I once again, I sucked it up and stepped in line. I have a feeling that I will be doing a lot of waiting in lines while on this continent. I waited, and waited and waited.

By the time I got the front, my patience was at it's limits and I just wanted to get out of the line. In the end, it was a cool tour but of course, I forgot to take pictures. After the tour I decided to take the hop on/hop off bus to see a bit more of the city. Although it was freezing, I opted for the top bunk to get better views of the city below. And, my camera was primed and ready for action.

It was after 2pm at this time and my 7am breakfast had long since worn off but I ignored it and carried on my city tour. I decided to stop off at Sagrada Familia. I had only seen this church via internet pictures and deemed it was an ugly eye sore but after viewing it up close and personal, my opinion changed. Wow, I love it! It is so gaudy and strange and ginormous but interesting and weirdly beauiful that I now understand why it is reverred as a top tourist attraction in Barcelona. I didn't go into the church as that would have been another 1 hour wait and the views from the outside were fantastic enough. I took many pictures and then moved on.

This time, my hunger pans refused to be ignored. There was a McDonald's close by but I have a deal with myself not to eat any fast food while in Europe. This might change as Tobias is adamant about visiting McDonald's for dinner soon. Instead, I went into a cute little bistro for a cheese & tomato panini, fanta and a spanish Churros for dessert.
Oh my gosh, so good! I sat down at a quaint table and enjoyed my meal. After lunch, it was time to move on. I was impressed with the Sagrada Familia but there was lots more to see and do.

I was now on the hop on/hop off again and since I am entertained very easily, I stopped at the site, Tibidabo to get a panoramic view of Barcelona. In order to get to the top, we had to take a tram and then a funicular which totalled about 10,00€ return. Oh, the views were spectacular.
Pic inside the tram:
I am afraid of heights so I took pictures away from the edge at the top of Tibidab but still, it was a wonderful experience.
It was almost surreal with the strong cool winds gusting through the mountain and children laughing from rides up high in the sky.
Pictures of Barcelona from way up high on Tibidabo
At one point, after the novelty wore off (that happens a lot with me) I decided to climb higher and check out the church, Temple de Sagrat Cor, at Tibidabo.

I went into the basilica for some great pictures and reflection on my vacation thus far. Afterward, I took the funicular and then tram back down to the tour bus meeting point.
Here is where I met an American family and got to speak! The wife and I chatted it up for a while until we had to part ways at Catalunya Sqaure. My next destination was simple and purely girlie, shopping.

Since I arrived in Barcelona, I had noticed the fantastic fashions everywhere and wanted in on that action. So, after getting off the bus I walked the extremely short distance to H&M on La Rambla. I was in heaven as they have the best clothing I've seen to date. Of course I spent some €'s that I didn't need to but......when in Spain........

After shopping I refused to go back to the hotel as it was still early and it was technically my last night in the city (tomorrow I had a full day tour) so I got back on the tour bus, this time the blue line, and headed to the harbor and pier. In my line of work, it is alway interesting and exciting for me to see ships docked and the large bodies of water in which they sit on.

I was on that bus for about 2 hours when I stumbled off and ran to a nearby McDonald's to use the facilites. Sitting on a bus while freezing with a full bladder for 2 hours is no fun. At all. When the bus stopped at the square I gingerly got off and ran/hobbled/walked to MdDonald's to use the facilities. Afterward I felt great so I walked along La Rambla again, with my H&M bag in tow, got a sandwich for dinner and went to the hotel. I was feeling very cold so I turned in after eating. It was about 9:30pm. I watched a bit of the Simpsons and the end of Dodge Ball, Catalyna style.

Posted by CanaGerm 02:22 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Weekend Jaunt - Barcelona, Spain, Day 1

overcast 13 °C


I left my place around 6:30am Friday morning even though my flight didn't leave until 10am. I had train instructions from my friends but I would rather be early than sorry so off I went. I had no problems taking the trains (which is getting much easier now) and arrived at STR airport early. After checking in and going through customs, I was bored and tired so I slept off and on until my flight was called. On the plane, I saw a bit of Europe as we flew over the mountains but I basically slept the entire 2 hour flight.
Upon arrival in Barcelona, I went straight to the exit as I was only carrying my backpack and noticed taxis and buses waiting to whisk people away. I decided to take a bus maked "City Bus" instead of the train or a taxi. I read in Lonely Planet (thanks Ro!!) that this is a good way to get to the city center so I hopped on. The bus ride was approx. 30 minutes to Catalunya Square, the city center. I immediately went downstairs to wait in the long tourist information line to book a few tours and see what I could do in this city. I ended up booking a walking tour of moderism for that very day, a tour of camp nou and a day trip to Montserrat. Oh, and of course, a hop on, hop off tour bus ticket.

Next was accomodations but before that I had to take some pictures of the Square. It was very nice despite the cold and rain.
barcelona_..leg_026.jpg <- my hotel room
Yes, it was cold and rainy the entire weekend. I had read in LP that La Rambla was a very famous street in Barcelona and easy to find. They are right on both accounts. Since there was a festival going on and the hordes of people and crowds were making me antsy, I decided to find a place to stay on La Rambla and get it over with. I tried very hard with no success to find a hostel. Because of all the crowds it was impossible to find those places as they are usually tucked away. Of course the next morning, with no crowds to block my view, I was able to see lots and lots of hostels along the street but my hotel was fine in the end. While walking around La Rambla I seeked out two possible hotels I could stay in and ended up staying in the cheaper of the two. Cheaper but not cheap. It was a 2 star hotel and easy to find at night, breakast was included in the price and the owners seemed really nice so I booked. After dropping off my backpack, I headed out again into the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

I all of a sudden realized that I was starving so I opted for a sandwich and Fanta (the most popular pop in Europe it seems). Then it was time to take in the sites. Now, as per instructions from Keisha, I had to take enough pictures so that she felt she was living the experience with me. :) I aimed to please as I walked around in wonder and blew up my camera.

The thing I loved the most about Barcelona was all it's small twisted streets.

This is what intrigued me the most and I found myself wandering many taking in the picture windows with flowers on the wrough iron balconies and pretty stone facades.
I loved it all!

Then I headed off the to meet up my group for my first tour, Barcelona Modernist Walking Tour. This tour focused a lot on the works of Gaudi. If you know me personally, you will know and understand that I am not an art lover. I just don't get it and have no aspirations to expand my appreciation of anything artsy but Gaudi and his architecture totally blew me away.
barcelona_..leg_091.jpg <- a very earlz Picasso (when he was about 16 yrs old)

The tour lasted 3 hours and during that time I met up with an older couple, Kay and Ed, from Florida. This was their 2nd time in Barcelona in two years and was on the last leg of a 10 day jaunt around the city.
After the tour, we said goodbye and I continued to walk around some more, took more pictures and then realized I was hungry. I wandered more but around 9pm, the preferred dinner time for Spain, I decided to seek out some food.

As per my friend Anita, it is imperative and almost a right of passage, to have paella and sangria before leaving Barcelona so of course I had to do her right. :)
barcelona_..leg_141.jpg <- chicken paella and sangria!
Dinner was really delicious but expensive. For calamari, paella and sangria, my bill was 35,00 euro. I chocked it up to being on vacation and went to the hotel. I watched some cnn and then fell into a deep sleep.

Posted by CanaGerm 01:04 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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