Saturday, September 15, 2007

Backpacking in Barcelona, 3-6 Sept 07

Why Barcelona? Becos my travel partner, Mscle's sister's boyfriend - Jerome is a local of Barcelona. Not originally from Catalunya (he's French), he's been living here since he was small. So he has some friends here who would be our dinner hosts later - the husband & wife pair of Javier & Pille. Oh what a sweet couple- they have a 15 yr old daughter, Ana.

One funny moment with them was during seafood dinner at Barceloneta (posh restaurant - dinner on the host, we'd never go on our own ~hell yeah I'm cheapskate!) Javier was explaining something about wild animals running about his casa at the nearby hilly area - which includes wild pork! He was referring to wild boars actually, of course we just innocently laughed it off (but no so innocently mocked him afterwards, heheh just couldn't resist it). It's like mutton crossing the road (oh you know, that line made famous by Azean Irdawaty)

Barcelona is the capital for the Catalunya state. Catalunya was conquered by Spain, so Catalans don't really fancy the Spanish ;-) Catalans speak differently from Spanish (Catalan), but they do understand Spanish, although Spanish people generally don't understand Catalan.

We took EasyJet from Stansted, quite reasonably priced, although Ryanair's offer was vastly cheap- a no brainer at 99 pence one way!! But since it's towards Girona (110 km away from Barca city), we scraped the idea, as it would mean additional return bus fare, which amounts to almost the same as getting a direct flight to the city.
I wasn't prepared for the scorching hot sun! I checked the internet 2 weeks before - it said around 22-26 deg C, but when we arrived it was 33 deg C!! Argggh.. caliente !!! (hot) Er, actually I dunno if u can use the term 'caliente' for hot see, I have frequently used the term for hot water - 'agua caliente' to prepare our maggi mee ;-)

We stayed at Hostal Barcelona (1 star hotel) twin sharing with attached bathroom, at EUR 29/person/night. Quite expensive, if you consider a Hotel Malaysia standard room at RM135/person/night or RM 270/room/night. Never do the $ conversion once in (western) Europe!

We explored Barcelona with Bus Turistic, a hop on hop off bus with open top at EUR 23 for a 2 days pass (1 day pass costs EUR 19). There are 3 routes - North, South & Forum routes. IMHO, just skip the Forum route, unless you want to go to posh shopping complexes.

Me being a cheapskate, I'd reckon u to just take the Metro (the tube) Day Pass, which costs EUR 9.60 as it goes to just about all the main tourist attractions. But like Mscle said, you won't get the commentary as you go. But you can always take the free map & guide, or download the facts from internet before you come. But if you're going for 2 days tour, then it's better to take the Bus Turistic, since it'll cost just about the same (EUR 19.20 VS EUR 23)
Place de Catalunya is the starting point of our bus adventure.
Port Vell, 03/09/07
Posh yachts ahoy! One can only wish to own a vessel like this. Uh oh..port infested by ikan pisang, those fish species you see at bottom of oil platforms offshore Kerteh that feeds on food waste from the platform- including human faeces, but a fascination to the Mat Salleh crowd

Ronda Colom, 03/09/07
This is the roundabout (Ronda) of the explorer, Christopher Columbus. There are many versions of Columbus' originality, in one of the versions, he's Spanish (or specifically Catalan). That's him on top of that tower, hailing towards the sky

La Rambla, 03/09/07
A long pedestrian walkway (mcm Bintang Walk gitu) with street performers (they act as statues- with all sorts of characters). One particular character - a male angel, was quite hostile, as he'd get angry if he gets lesser coins, he'd demand for more money! But the female angel was gentle. Javier told us, some of them are university students, doing the act as their research project. Woah, it really takes a lot of patience!

Passeig de Gracia - Casa Mila @ La Pedrera, 04/09/07

Built by Gaudi btwn 1906 - 1910. A re-creation of a period apartment.

Sagrada Familia, 04/09/07

Antonio Gaudi's architectural genius ~ started construction late 19th century, only to be completed in 2026, with 4 more of that searing towers. When asked why he devoted so much time to something that he may not even have the chance to see it completed, Gaudi replied - "My client is in no hurry. God has all the time in the world"
Look carefully, there's a bridge linking the towers, and 'someone' sitting on it.
It's sad though Gaudi was killed in 1926 on the way to supervise the building of the temple, being hit by a tram. It was only known a few days later after he was hit, that the victim was Gaudi.

Parc Guell, 05/09/07

Initially we heard on the bus audio commentary that the park is closed for the season, but we tried our luck. Well luck was on our side, the park was open! Here is the famous Gaudi bench and gecko (lizard) made of colourful marbles. We took lotsa pix here, although it was reaaaaaaally hot! Plus, entrance is free! Make full use of it! The park is named after Gaudi's great patron, Count Eusebell Guell (fact taken from brochure)

Camp Nou, Club Barcelona's stadium, 05/09/07
Naw...I didn't see Ronaldinho/ Thierry Henry & co. Stadium tour costs EUR20, if I'm not mistaken. Naw...we didn't go in too..Nuff said

El Castell Modern , 05/09/07
Oh nothing really to say, but it's nice to see.

Alhambra palace...sort of and the back alleys of La Rambla, 06/09/07

Reminds me of Alhambra palace, but it's not. That's in another town - Granada. Where this is exatcly, my mind can't recall. In one of the back alleys "Carrer" of La Rambla.

On the last day of our trip, Mscle's sis, Liyana + bf Jerome arrived in Barca, so we met up with them briefly. Jerome showed us around the back alleys that we'd never discover on our own - dark, narrow alleys, locally called 'Carrer', or in Edinburgh it's called 'Close' becos they were so narrow & so close together.

We also tried to find mesquitas (mosques) as we had to check out at 12 noon, but our flight was only due at 9pm. We had an address of a local Islamic centre & showed it to Jerome. He brought us to 2 nearer mesquitas, but both were closed. So we had to find the 3rd one, which we had the address. Jerome & Liyana dropped us off nearby the 3rd mesquita, but it was also closed.
Apparently, mesquitas over here only open during the call for prayers. So we headed back to our hotel (we didn't have time anymore for last minute souvenir shopping), and prayed at the hotel cafetaria. The old pakcik saw me in my telekung with the prayer mat, said Hola!, I answered back, then he went off. I guess local folks do have tolerance for other religions, which I did have reservations on the local's response towards me, initially.

One old lady did ask me if I was feeling hot wearing the scarf, I just smiled. Concern la pulak makcik ni..memang le panas makcik oooi...Always, upon reaching our room after a hard day's tour, I'd head straight to the shower! Bukan mcm Kareemah yg mandi 4 kali jek seminggu hehehe...jgn mare aaaa..(mandi Davidoff on remaining days)
Oh, on the way to find the 3rd mesquita, we found the Arc De Triomfe! Wahey, Barca have their own version of the Arc as well, albeit a different spelling, and smaller in size than the one in Paris.



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