Day 12 & 13: Barcelona, Karen and Dom’s road trip, Spain.

Two days in Barcelona is not enough – not enough to take in the vibrant city, the wealth of culture, the details of the streets and gardens, and the colour of the city squares…

And we also wanted to make the most of having a beach by the marina!

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Staying on the boat has been an experience, and there are several bars and restaurants in Port Forum, not to mention a kicking club to which the whole of Barcelona’s twenty-somethings throng. We fashionably demurred (each night) and had a glass of wine at a tapas bar before heading back to the boat. This time, we didn’t bring the super yacht so we’re slumming it a bit… no air-con… no space… but lots of added benefits like mosquitos, mosquitos and erm, did we mention the mosquitos? Currently, we’re battling it out over who has the most bites. Dom has 16 including one each on most of his toes, but Karen just pips him to the post with 17 in all. Blankety Blank cheque book and pen winging its way to the Savage. So our first top tips: Citronella is not effective on these hardy buggers, and prob best not to stay on a boat in August!

The trip from the port into town takes us through a wide area of the port, next to the natural history museum and this installation. Just the first of many artworks we see around the city.

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Once in the city we love the winding back streets, the little artisanal craft shops in the gothic quarter, and the pavement cafes in tree lined avenues. We spent ages in this art shop, Galeria Maxo, with its fantastic decor (including a train set running around the ceiling!) and quirky one-off pieces, which we couldn’t resist. Maxo himself is a really friendly proprietor and we’d say he has one of the coolest shops in the city!

And down the street, bits of graffiti remind us of Banksy:

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Carrer de la Princesa is also full of little independent shops, wine bars and less interesting souvenir shops. It’s not often that you see a shop dedicated to magic, founded in 1881, which curiously enough…

… is the same year that Pablo Picasso was born. And just around the corner, in Carrer Montcada, is the Picasso Museum – so we had to pop in.

The museum has oodles of paintings dating right back to when Picasso was in his teens, though his signature style doesn’t really emerge until the 1920s. It’s great (as it always is with art) to see the original works in their actual size – some of which were familiar, but many of which were new surprises to us. Perhaps the most exciting section of the gallery (for us) was his series of Las Meninas paintings, of which there are 58 in all. These are all the result of a 6-month intense study Picasso did of Velasquez’s painting Las Meninas:

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There are a whole series of different versions of the entire painting, and dozens of smaller paintings showing little details, like this one of the main girl.

Of course, Barcelona is not all about Picasso. Elsewhere, the city has countless other delights and lots of them related to other famous artists. The figure of Gaudi looms large, for example – you can hardly miss the Sagrada Familia, though with its torrents of tourists we took a few snaps and strolled on.

It wasn’t long before we found a side-street, a plate of tapas and a friendly waitress with a bottle of vino blanco. Well, it’s what we do best.

It could have been a difficult time to be a tourist in Barcelona, yet the vibrancy, the people and the spirit of the city are so strong, it’s showed us very clearly that, although this is a city in mourning, it is also a city full of culture, soul and freedom.

Like any of the world’s great cities, you can’t do it all in a couple of days. But we’ll definitely be back before long. Viva Barcelona!

 

 

Day 11: Leaving Lleida for Barcelona. Karen and Dom’s Road Trip, Spain.

Our morning began with a moan to the hotel. We accumulated about 10 litres of water in our bucket overnight, that’s quite a lot of dripping! But, heh ho we won’t dwell and instead we are off to play a game. X-Door is a cross between the Crystal Maze and the Da Vinci Code – so, bloomin exciting! And, it’s all the rage in Espana. At 11:30 (sharp) we rang on a buzzer at a discreet venue (ooh er missus – not that kind of discreet – more like secretive) where we were greeted by Sergio, the Master Commander, as he instructed us to call him (or just Sergio if we couldn’t be arsed with that).

The premise of the game was that we were locked in a room for 60 minutes and we had to find our way out by solving a number of clues, riddles and challenges. It was Ace!!! Sergio reminded us  that we had to work together and to spot everything. He helped us out a couple of times with some additional clues, but all in all we were impressed to escape with 2 seconds on the clock. Phew! And how very filmic!

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Now, we can’t reveal any further info about the game because of course it is all ‘Top Secret’, but needless to say we recommend it. Apparently you can find it in many big cities, but we think it is a bigger hit here than elsewhere.

If you choose to accept this mission this message will self-destruct in 5 seconds…only kidding! (We felt aptly prepared for our game because we’ve been watching loads of Action films whilst we’ve been away…we know, we should have been writing instead, but Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg were calling.)

So, after all that activity we continued our journey to Barcelona. And as the road took us  along some less interesting motorway we decided to make a pitstop for lunch in Vilagrassa. We found a snazzy restaurant called El Catalunya specialising in BBQ and snails. We declined the snails… Karen has issues eating things that she’s written about, and we played it safe  with chicken and pork. So, Karen tucked in to yummy chicken and chips and Dom had three pigs feet slapped on the plate…eeeew not quite what he expected. But, bravely without complaining he scoffed them all up…Karen would have made a noise about eating anything like it and though it looked like a challenge from ‘I’m a celebrity’… these were also really yummy. (Actually, it looked like a graveyard by the end of the shift and I was half tempted to resurrect the skeleton on my plate, but that was a bit David Attenborough for me, so I had a coffee instead.)

Literally everybody else was eating these fellas… (look through the gap in the pillars and you can see a plate of the slippery little suckers!)

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Barcelona! “I had this perfect dream…” We’ve hit the east coast at last. We’ve been looking forward to Barcelona as a high point of our trip and had expected to drive into the City with Freddie Mercury in our heads and the memory of Linford Christie winning the 100m in 1992. But of course this week has put a different slant on things. We can’t ignore that, and we will have to see how the next few days play out. It is really hard to predict how such events can impact a place, and how that will in turn affect the way that we feel able to experience it too. However, in our next AirBnB venue there is an element of calm because we are staying in Port Forum Marina on a little boat…the bedroom is a bit quirky and Karen’s already blocked the toilet with a giant poo, and Dom’s broken the table, but the mosquitos are good company…(get more citronella)…and just a stone’s throw away seems to be the hippest DJ venue in Spain (our kids would love it, and on another night Karen might also be throwing some shapes, but frankly tonight we are not feeling the vibe). However it’s a peaceful waterfront idyll

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Tonight’s viewing is An Idiot Abroad (just to help us feel a bit better about our travelling selves).