Sunday, October 18, 2009

another barcelona day

We took the metro to the Rambla neighborhood, looking for another flea-market. The flea part was pretty meager, but there was a thriving, regular coin and stamp market, with dozens of tables serving the curiosity and competitive needs of many buyers and sellers.

It was quite a scene, and you definitely had the feeling that this has been going on for years, every Sunday. Didn't buy anything, although one table that specialized in (genuine?) Roman, Etruscan, and Moroccan coins was especially cool.

From there, we wandered over to the Cathedral neighborhood, via the 'Placa de George Orwell'. One of the books I had brought with me on this trip (have I not mentioned this previously?) is 'Homage to Catalonia', his ultimately blistering chronicle of his time serving in the Republican army during the Civil War, and, especially, his surreal time here in Barcelona. You should read this, if you haven't. Strangely, no plaque or explanation of why that plaza has that name. Does anyone know?

Following directions in Rick Steves' book, we found the tiny side-street near the cathedral, where you turn a corner and there, surrounded by buildings is a little, quiet space occupied by four original columns from the Roman temple on this site. It's quite eerie. The place is called 'Mount Taber' and is the highest point in the original Roman town.

A couple of blocks away and it's the 21st century again, with traffic and the bustling of tourists.
We hopped on the Blue tourist bus (remember, we bought 2-day passes) and rode it up to the 'Block of Discord', where 4 Modernist buildings, one by Gaudi, compete with each other. The crowds were enormous, but we peeked into one of the houses to see the interesting architectural details, before hopping on a Red tourist bus, to sit for a while.

This bus took us back to Sagrada Familia, which is where we first picked it up yesterday (was it only yesterday?). This time, as we approached Sagrada, we could see an astonishing tide of humanity. A lot of people milling around. We felt sorry for the people in the REALLY long line waiting to get on the Tourist Bus, because NOBODY on our bus got off to visit the church. It must have been a long, hot wait for a lot of people there today.

However, we sailed along, and it was grand, sitting on top as the bus winds its way thru the various neighborhoods. Our destination was the Park Guell, Gaudi's failed urban-living development, now a public park.

Lots of people here, too. That was an understatement.

Despite the crowds, we managed to walk uphill in the park to a reasonably quiet place, where we spread out our lunch on a bench and munched away, while first a hammer-dulcimer player and then a violinist played music for the folks (CDs available). It was actually very, very nice, and the park itself is a surreal Disney-land like experience, with more people than you can imagine.

After we ate, we spent a lot of time wandering the many paths, climbing high above the park entrance, to a great viewpoint overlooking the entire Barcelona basin. We could see for miles and miles and miles, the blue Mediterranean off in the distance, and landmarks like Sagrada Familia and Montjuic orienting the view.

By now it was almost 3 pm, and we'd been doing our tourist thing, once again, for many hours.

We got back on the Tourist Bus (luckily, no wait, and seats on top!) and rode around the Red route, as we had done yesterday. It was getting pretty chilly by the time we reached the stop near our home. We walked the few block to our familiar neighborhood, and now we are there, having had a cup of nice mint tea, lying in bed, me typing and Karen reading the thriller she picked up in Tarragona.

We will relax a bit, then head out for some dinner. Tomorrow is the last day of this trip.

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