Wanderung 14

The Plane to Spain replaced by the Bounding Main!

April-May 2007

Day 15: Monday April 30 2007, Barcelona, Spain

Noon position: 41 degrees 23.452' N latitude, 002 degrees 10.128' E longitude (Hotel St. Moritz, Barcelona, Spain)


I was tired and woozy when we got up for the day, but the weather was sunny and clear so we wandered off to see what we could of Barcelona before we checked out of our hotel at noon. Our first stop, however, was the McDonalds restaurant at the top of Las Ramblas where we each had a pancake breakfast, I had orange juice to swallow my fist full of pills, and Monika had coffee. Thus fortified, we cut into the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) where we found the main cathedral.

The outside of the cathedral was shrouded in a lattice of scaffolding and netting, so we couldn't get a good look at it much less take a decent picture. Passing by the same black-garbed old women shaking change in cups and whining at me with querulous voices (a new bunch or had they followed us from Valencia?), we stepped into the church. The interior was large and very ornate but rather dim with just a few stained glass windows high up on the walls.

The various little shrines or chapels around the circumference of the church were all very fancy and elaborate. The extensive use of gold and gold leaf helped me understand just what Spain had done with the wealth scraped out of the slaves and mines of the New World for several centuries. But I was puzzled by the fact that a religion that was based in part on the Israelites being severely punished for worshipping a golden calf would have taken so strongly to worshipping golden effigies of saints two millennia later. Am I the only one that sees the irony in all this? Or is there some distinction about "bad" golden images versus "good" golden images that I'm just not comprehending?


This morning we did the touristy thing. But first we had pancakes at McDonalds since the hotel charged 18 Euro per person for the breakfast buffet. We walked around the old Gothic section and into the cathedral. It was, of course, huge. Along the sides were little chapels to all kinds of saints, sometimes 3 or 4 of them at a time. Since I had listened to the litany of saints at Gary's Deaconization, this did not surprise me. The amount of gold everywhere, however, did.




From the cathedral we worked our way north and east a mile or two to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, which was another tourist "must" according to our guidebooks. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk because of all the beautiful architecture we saw along the way. In almost every block we walked we saw at least one building that was pretty enough to make us stop and take a picture, and each one was unique due to color, design, or decoration.

We were particularly impressed by the graceful wrought iron balconies that adorned so many of the buildings in that area. Some were curved while others were straight, but they all seemed to complement the buildings. I was really astonished, however, at one building that had balconies made from a graceful pattern of interwoven stone lines, kind of like intertwined serpents of stone. I've just never seen anything like it, and it looked really great.

Other buildings were decorated with paintings or ceramic tiles that had scenes depicted on them. One fountain in the Gothic Quarter had different panels on each of its six sides, and I thought that was really fancy for something as utilitarian as a fountain.


From the cathedral we decided to walk to the Sagrada Familia church the unfinished work of the Spanich architect Gaudi. This took us through a newer section, apartment buildings built during the middle to end of the 19th century when Barcelona blossomed. The buildings were very interesting and different with beautiful balconies of wrought iron and even stone. Best of all, hardly a tourist in sight.



One thing we saw that was definitely not in the tour guides was a very pretty little church that had some the same architectural elements as the Sagrada Familia. A plaque out front clarified that this little church had been designed by Gaudi's teacher, and that gave me some insight as to how Gaudi had come by some of his ideas. Once we reached the Sagrada Familia, we found it to be very impressive even though the graceful, artistic spires were surrounded by construction cranes and yet more scaffolding. Unfortunately, getting inside at that time of day, at least, looked impossible. There was a queue of at least five tour buses lined up to discharge passengers and the entire front of the church was thronged with wall-to-wall people. A word to the wise might be to schedule your visit to the Sagrada Familia for the first thing when they open for the day so that you have a chance to get in without waiting too long


On the way, we happened to pass a beautiful little church with intricate stonework designs. A placard informed us that it was designed by the teacher of Gaudi. We enjoyed taking pictures of it. When we got to the Sagrada Familia, I was taken aback by this monumental thing. What in the smaller church looked appropriate and in proportion was enlarged and accentuated to a degree that it overwhelmed. I guess it was one of those things you either like or don't. I don't. Where the walk from the Burri Gottic to the Sagrada Familia had been free of tourists, they were suddenly there again and tour bus after tour bus was disgorging more of them. There were long lines at the entrance and we both decided we didn't need to see the interior of this monstrosity.




Walking briskly back to our hotel to check out, we passed by an old convent that had a really beautiful interior atrium. The atrium was surrounded by a graceful colonnade that made me relax just by looking at it. Still, we had to check out by noon, so we hurried on to the hotel, packed our bags, checked out, and took the airport express bus out to Barcelona's airport (3.90 Euro each). There we found out that the Hertz rental office was in Terminal B, where we signed the necessary contract and drove off in our Ford Focus, a surprisingly roomy and nice economy car.

We looped around Barcelona on the Autovia (Interstates) to avoid delays and then cut back to the Mediterranean coast to drive east to Pineda del Mar where Monika had reserved a hotel for a couple of nights. We were fine as long as we stuck to the Autovia, but boy did things get tricky once we got off it. The roads were narrow, twisty, and poorly marked. We could almost never find a sign indicating what street we were on or what the cross streets were. Since I was driving slowly to give Monika a chance to find those hidden signs, I usually had an impatient motorcyclist riding my rear bumper and revving his engine like mad. At one point we were so badly turned around that I had to take three different turns at the same intersection before I finally got it right, which was really frustrating. I had my first near miss when the guy two cars ahead suddenly slammed on his breaks on the exit ramp off the interstate. The car immediately ahead of me locked up his brakes and veered right to miss the stopped car, and I slammed on my brakes and veered left to miss both both of them. Fortunately the car behind me also slid to a stop without making contact, so we all could catch our collective breath, wait for the idiot at the head of the line to make up his mind which way to go, and then proceed on our way.

Even with the help of the GPS, Monika was so confused by the lack of street signs that she asked a local person for directions to the general area of our hotel. We drove in the direction he indicated, but even when we came in sight of the high-rise building we couldn't actually drive to it because of the labyrinthine maze of one-way streets. So we circled completely around the hotel before finally finding the secret driveway that led to its entryway. By this time I was rather frazzled and glad to stop. But once we were finally in Hotel Paradis Park, our troubles were over. We got a very nice suite of rooms overlooking the Mediterranean for 57 Euros per night, including breakfast and dinner.


Besides it was getting late--check out time was 12:00 noon. We stopped at a little bakery type for a sandwich and hotfooted it back to our hotel. We grabbed our suitcases, checked out, and walked a couple of blocks to a stop for the airport bus. At the airport we went to the Hertz rent-a-car and got our car. It turned out to be about 80 Euro more than anticipated since they did add airport tax. Oh well; but the little Ford Focus held our luggage easily and took us to our next destination on the Costa Brava.

Getting to the town was OK as long as we were on the interstates around Barcelona. But once off it, I missed our first turn off on the road up the coast and it was difficult for Bob to turn around. We finally reached Pineda del Mar. But the town was bigger than expected and we had difficulty finding our hotel. We finally saw it, but it still took us several turns up and down narrow one-way streets before we reached the hotel Top Paradis Park. It seemed there was only one way to the hotel and finding that one was not easy. But once at the hotel, Bob parked the car easily and we got a suite on the fifth floor with even a balcony looking out over the pool, at truck and bus parking lot, and in the distance the Mediterranean.


Since we also had a refrigerator as well as a sink and range, we drove over to Carrefours about a mile away to buy some drinks and snacks. Along the way I had my second near miss when I came up on an unmarked intersection at the same time as a car from the right. I accelerated to get through the intersection first but he clearly had expected me to stop instead and he came barreling through the intersection right behind my rear bumper. That's when I remembered how much some of the countries in Europe adhere to the "car on the right has the right of way" rule for these unmarked intersections and made a mental note to be a lot more careful of that for the rest of the trip.

Once we arrived Carrefours, we again had to circle completely around the building to find the secret entrance to their parking lot. This Carrefours store was a lot smaller than the one we had shopped at in France during Wanderung 10 but it had Sprite, wine, skimmed milk, and various snack foods. However, we also wanted to have an ice cube tray to make ice cubes for our drinks and we ended up having to make two passes through the "household goods" aisle before we finally found the Spanish equivalent of an ice cube tray. The reason was that instead of being a cheap, flexible plastic tray with sections to hold water such as in the U.S. or Germany, the Spanish version is a roll of plastic sheets that looks like a roll of sandwich bags rather than an ice cube tray. The bags, however, are made in a checkerboard fashion so that when you fill them up and freeze them, you do get ice cubes. Of course, you have to rip the bag open to get at them, so each of these bags is a one-time use deal. Still, it was better than nothing so we packed up our drinks and snacks and worked our way (carefully) back to the hotel.

The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed the view from our verandah, enjoyed our snacks, and worked on the journals (I on the computer and Monika writing long hand) until it was time for dinner at 7:30 p.m. Keeping to my low-fat diet, I had to limit myself to overcooked potatoes, pasta, and marinara sauce, which was a bit of let down after two weeks of sumptuous dinners on the Brilliance of the Seas! After dinner we read for a bit and turned in as soon as I could after eating a meal so late. I was still trying to get enough sleep to kick the cold that seemed to be hanging on in my head and throat. The phlegm made my voice get high and squeaky at unpredictable times and that was irritating even to me.


After moving in, we went to the local Carreforres to buy drinks and snacks (milk and apple juice for Bob and a bottle of Rose for me at 2.60 Euro, Dave and Rick would have been appalled.) I settled on the balcony with a glass of wine to write...Life is good.

Copyright 2007 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt
Prolog Map of Cruise Map of Spain Epilog

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