Sacrada Familia and Nou Camp
Getting up and moving in the morning took us a couple minutes longer than we expected, but I think we made it out by 9:30 and found a place a few minutes away from the hostel to have breakfast. We had orange juice and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, which they call a ‘bikini’ in most places in Barcelona for some reason. Then it was back on the metro to begin our odyssey for the day. Our first stop was the “sacrada familia” or Sacred Family, which is arguably one of Barcelona’s most recognizable landmarks. The church/cathedral originally designed and conceived by Gaudi is a continuous work in progress. Now consisting of eight towers, the final design is for 15 towers I believe. The projected completion date is 2025, but a lot of people doubt that will happen. However, what is there now is still quite impressive and definitely a must see for anyone visiting. Any tour or guide book will definitely include a sizable section devoted to this structure. And as you would expect there are a host of vendors trying to capitalize on the influx of foreign spenders. And while we were originally interested in going inside to see the interior, the size of the line up deterred us, so we took photos all around the exterior and headed back into the underground.
At this point we moved a Sunday plan to Saturday and decided to head to Nou Camp, the home of football in Barcelona. The stadium is one of the biggest in the world, holding something like 120,000 people. We queued up for what was about 45 minutes and bought tickets to take a tour of the stadium. And while football is not my thing, it was an interesting experience. We got to see dressing rooms, and go out at field level as well as into the seating area. At the end there was a relatively well laid out museum on the history of football (and some other sports) in Barcelona. It took around 90 minutes at least to go through the whole thing and as usual, we ended up in the shops where they sell jerseys, balls and other expensive merchandise that people just need to have. At this point we set out back up to Diagonal street to get to the metro and to find a place to eat lunch.
After seeking out a little cafeteria which offered us a fairly cheap lunch, we headed along the metro lines towards Espanya — the station for Plaza Espanya, which is in front of the national palace. This picturesque building sits at the end of Marie Claire street and the large Barcelona Fair site. It so happened that our visit coincided with a retro car show going on in front of the palace, which provided for even more photo opportunities. We climbed up the stairs and around the palace to the park like area on the reverse side of it. After a brief walk we found ourselves at the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics that was hosted by Barcelona. The primary athletics stadium is undergoing repairs, but we were able to get in to take some photos. Then we went around to the side of the stadium where there were more buildings belonging to the Olympic complex, but at this point it was 18:00 and they were closing. We were in only a few minutes when we were told to leave. At this point it was also dark out, but we still had one last destination while we were on Montjuic. Again, Pablo was our guide for all of this, and he was leading us up the mountain to the castle at the top. He mentioned there was a bus we could take which was easier than walking. I’m sure it would have been. Thanks to a bus driver who pointed us in, I’m going to say, the wrong direction, we did end up walking up the mountain. It was quite a hike, obviously our penance for missing the swimming pool that day. However, it was well worth it. The view over the entire city at night was quite breathtaking. We did catch the bus back down after taking the required photos which returned us all the way back to a metro station which we took back to the hostel.
We stopped at the hostel briefly to regroup and rest our tired feet (especially after the unplanned mountain hike). We had passed some interesting looking kebap places in our trip from the metro to the hostel and decided to go try our luck there. The food was surprisingly good and the decor was interesting to say the least, with a large aquarium wrapped around two of the walls. The aquarium didn’t look like it had ever been cleaned, and I’m not sure how the fish were still alive, but they made for interesting company near the table. After eating we headed back down to Las Ramblas and this time headed right, towards the waterfront.
Nenad and I having both grown up in coastal areas have been suffering at bit in Madrid from the lack of salinity in the air and other barely perceptible differences that exist in a city that isn’t on the ocean/sea. So being in on the waterfront in Barcelona was a very welcome and comforting thing. In general the waterfront area was very nice and we strolled around for a while. It was quite chilly with the usually waterfront breeze, but otherwise a pleasant time. Nenad and I were both quite tired and so after a while we headed back to the hostel while the two Guatemalans continued exploring the waterfront. Sleep came much easier on Saturday night thanks to the full day outside and all the walking/mountain climbing we did. Since Nou Camp was something we originally planned for Sunday, we had a bit more time available on the schedule so we decided to allow for a 10:00 departure the next morning.