03 & 04 August 2015 – a break in Barcelona

It was only a short ride from Camping 3 Estrellas to Barcelona, however here’s the route and stats in case anyone else needs to work out how to cycle into the city from that direction – about 24km:

I didn’t do any cycling on 04 August, opting to walk everywhere for a change.

It was a slightly convoluted route to get into Barcelona, avoiding a few autopistas and getting over a river or two. I followed a few local cyclists going in the right direction, and asked a couple of others who pointed me towards the right roads. Once I was in the outskirts I joined cycle paths which took me all the way into the centre.

I pedalled down to the waterfront, spotting a giant lobster which I’ve since learnt was created for the 1992 Olympics, and a monument that looked suspiciously akin to Nelson’s Column, complete with lions, but was in fact built to commemorate Columbus. The port area looked lovely, and I’ll visit it again if I have time, however to get to the hostel I turned away from it and up through the old gothic area.

I stayed at the St Christopher’s Inn Hostel for two nights, which is pretty much in the centre of Barcelona, not far from the Placa de Catalunya. It proved very convenient for walking to several of the city’s attractions, as well as being comfortable and laid back, with a restaurant attached which was very reasonable; 25% off food if you’re staying at the hostel. Once I’d arrived I had to wait until 14.00 to check in, time well spent enjoying a large salad and celebratory pint; reaching Barcelona felt like quite a milestone, with only a couple of day’s riding required to get to France.

After food, checking in, and a bit of a siesta, I went for a wander around the Old Town, complete with its many gothic buildings, and La Rambla street which runs from the Placa de Catalunya to Port Vell; a tree-lined pedestrian walk that runs down the centre of the street with lots of stalls, restaurants and street performers. There were lots of very talented buskers taking advantage of the great acoustics created by the high stone buildings and winding narrow streets; a horn player near the Cathedral gave a wonderful rendition of Ave Maria. I took a look around Barcelona cathedral, meeting the 13 famous geese, and taking a pause in the cool interior; a moment of reflection.

After the cathedral I meandered around more of the old streets, stopping to watch an excellent tumbling act that also gave a Capoeira demonstration (Brazilian martial art), then getting some chicken satay noodles from a street vendor for dinner.

I ate my noodles, followed by some fruit you’ll be glad to hear, in the Placa de Catalunya, watching lots of people also having an evening snack, or relaxing near one of the many fountains.

Then it was back to the hostel for some downtime and blog updates; hadn’t realised how tired I was so think they’ll be quite a lot of snoozing on this city break!

Day 2 in Barcelona involved a lot of walking, having abstained from cycling for a day to use alternative muscle groups; very nice it was too. I had a somewhat interrupted night’s sleep, the joy of sleeping in a dorm, due to other residents arriving back at 02.00, 03.00, and then finally about 05.30. I can’t say I blame them, Barcelona is definitely a party city with a lot of very good clubs and bars; apparently there’d been some shenanigans going on in a local swimming pool which the police turned a blind eye to. The hostel does a simple but hearty breakfast, included in the price, so after carb loading I set out to explore, heading up to the Sagrada Familia, before walking on to Parc Guell.

The Sagrada Familia was designed by Gaudi, and is still under construction; I think the cathedral is due to be finished around 2026, so maybe I’ll come and look around it properly then. I had intended on going inside today, however upon arrival was told that the next available entry tickets were for 17.00, 9 hours away, so I thought I’d give it a miss; didn’t fancy walking all the way back. In hindsight I should have realised Barcelona’s tourist spots would be absolutely rammed, however I hadn’t thought the waiting times would be quite so bad, and had arrived relatively early.

Park Guell is another work by Gaudi, on Carmel Hill, and somewhere I’d also advise you buy tickets for in advance; only a 2 hour wait for the central bit, but too long for me. I’m still undecided as to whether I actually appreciate Gaudi’s style or not; it’s certainly intriguing, but a little ‘blobby’ in places; I’m probably being a Philistine. You have to pay for he inner bit of the park, with its monuments and mosaics, however I was happy to walk around the extensive outer bits, taking in the views and again listening to some fantastic busking; was a long walk up the hill though.

I observed a touching moment whilst walking around the park; a young blind girl had been attracted by the music being played by the busker in the above photo, and was introduced to the musician by her father. The musician took her hand and let her sit and feel the shape of his guitar type instrument; not actually sure what it’s called. She was all smiles and obviously somewhat enchanted by the strains of his music, lovely.

I made it to the mirador (view-point) at the top of the hill, then meandered back down again, over a few of the viaducts and listening to more of the music.

Post Park Guell I returned to the hostel for lunch, through one of the city’s food markets which smelt lovely. The size and ripeness of the peppers out here puts the ones we getting the UK to shame, and the range of fish and charcuterie is outstanding.

Mercat de la Concepció, Barcelona

Mercat de la Concepció, Barcelona

I decided to take it easy in the afternoon, wandering down La Rambla again, then back through the Old Town, the latter being my favourite bit of Barcelona so far. There were some intriguing cosplay street performers to be seen on La Rambla.

I stopped at the Picasso museum, but rather than paying €14 to go in I had a look in the shop, where I could see most of the artwork reproduced in the form of postcards; nice old building though, and cool, offering some respite from a hot day walking about.

I had a siesta when I got back to the hostel, rather than do any washing. I’ve been waiting for the washing machine to be free, however it never is, so my manky clothes are just going to have to wait for a campsite; stuff will dry and air better outside anyway. At least I’ve given Smaug the once over and everything seems to be in working order, ready for France.

It was nice just chilling out at the hostel for a bit, chatting to a few other travellers and reading a book; I’ve finished Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch now, an excellent read – will have to download something else, any recommendations? There are loads of Australian and Kiwi travellers in this hostel, as well as a fair few Americans, all doing a European Tour. It’s great meeting such a wide range of people and hearing some of their travelling stories; makes me realise there is still so much more of the world to explore.

To round of Barcelona I nipped out for an evening wander, finding an ace kebab shop, then returning to the hostel for a Mojito. The nighttime temperature is really comfortable, hovering at about 20 degrees Celsius, so I can see why most activity happens later on. Tomorrow it’s on to Girona; route not 100% confirmed – I’ll make it up as I go along and see where I end up.

Barcelona definitely in the top 10 cities for the tour, if not the top 5; well worth a visit.

P.S. Never seen so many selfie sticks here, and people posing for photos. It’s amusing watching some of the expressions people pull!

2 thoughts on “03 & 04 August 2015 – a break in Barcelona

  1. westonfront

    Book suggestion – Larry’s Party by Carol Shields. Ideal for a gentlemen of our age – it explores what it is like to be a chap in the late 20th century. Insightful and page turning (chapter 1 isn’t great, but it is good from chapter 2 onwards)

    Liked by 1 person


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