It's our second (and last) full day in Barcelona. We leave tomorrow afternoon (Monday) on the cruise. We were so tired last night, we forgot to write up anything and went right to sleep. We're still acclimating to the time difference. So this entry will cover both out days here.
Saturday May 14, 2016
We woke up at a decent time on Saturday, had breakfast and went on our first journey - to the Apple Store. We didn't bring a laptop and realized we had no way to transfer pictures from our camera to the iPad so had to buy a special adapter to connect the two. Pictures from the phone are only ok so we wanted to use the real camera too. Works like a charm. We spent most of the day window shopping (with some real shopping thrown in a couple times) and walking up and down the street our hotel is on. Of course we had lunch - Sangria and Paella:
Our room is on the 4th floor so we have a great view of the plaza below, which has a fountain in the middle:
Our main excursion today started at 5pm at the basilica called La Sagrada Familia. This is a church designed by Antoni Gaudi a famous Spanish architect. He had a really interesting style -almost cartoonish in some ways. He worked his whole life to get the church built but died in his 70's before it could be completed (he was hit by a train and thought to be a homeless person because no one recognized the body.). The church had only two walls built by the time he died. The government and other patrons decided to finish the project and it is still under construction. They think they will have it completed in the early 2020's but our tour guide said that knowing Spain, it will be the early 2040's. Here are some pictures...you can see how unique it is. And all the light is natural - all of it comes from the sun through the windows.
We had an opportunity to go up into one of the towers but it started raining so we left and went back to the hotel. It was after 7, still kind of early for many Spaniards to eat but we were in the tourist section and there were plenty of restaurants open.
During the day we saw a poster for "An evening with David Duchovny actor" (actor from the X files, Californication, etc). We looked it up and had no idea he was a musician. We are by no means great fans of his but figured since we were in Barcelona and he was too, We seriously considered going to see him until we heard some of the music. Sorry Mr. Duchovney. At least we got this picture of the marquee:
We were very tired at the end of Saturday so we went to sleep around 9PM.
Sunday, May 15 2016
Sunday was a half day trip to Montserrat - a mountain that contains a Benedictine monastery and overlooks Barcelona and the surrounding area. It's so high that you can see the Pyrenees mountains 35km away (these form the natural border between Spain and France) on one side and the ocean on the other. We booked a tour through a local company called Julia Travel and journeyed an hour or so up to the mountain (partial highway, partial windy road.) The original monastery dates back to the 10th century but the original buildings were destroyed in 1811 by Napolean's forces. The Monastery was rebuilt in the 1840's. They have a boys choir that Jeanne wanted to hear so we packed into the main church with everyone else in Barcelona and heard the Sunday mass and some of the choir - none of which was worth it. We couldn't hear and the mass was in Catalan, not even Spanish, so instead of understanding 25% of it, we understood none of it (more on the two languages in Barcelona below.). The church organ played stuff that sometimes sounded like music from The Omen and at other times like the music at the end of the Godfather when Michael Corleone is becoming godfather to his nephew, professing his belief in God and his rejection of Satan while his henchmen murder the other heads of the 5 mob families. We got some good pictures though. Of our two excursions, this was our least favorite. The bus was hot and the location was only interesting for a short time. To take advantage of all that it had to offer, we would have needed a full day because a couple points of interest like the cross and another building were 20-30 minute walks each way. Atleast We bought some goat cheese.
When we got back into the city we walked around some more to see if there was anything else we wanted to buy since Stores aren't open Monday. The concierge at our hotel said it was "Second Easter" but we figured that must have been a mis-translation, so we looked it up and it's something called Whit Monday. It's a religious holiday in Spain, celebrated only in the Catalonia region, where Barcelona is. More here if interested: http://www.officeholidays.com/countries/europe/whitmonday.php
We had an earlier dinner this night (6PM) and came up to our room to post this and make an early evening of it. We finished the evening with food and sangria of course:
About Spanish and Catalan: Barcelona is the capital of its own autonomous region within Spain, called Catalonia. Kind of a cross between a US state and its own country - it has its own laws that apply within its region but follows federal laws too. It has two official languages: Catalan and Spanish (don't get Catalan and Castilian mixed up; Castilian is another name for Spanish, namely the Spanish spoken in Spain - Catalan is a totally different language.) Most of the signs and in the streets are in at least two languages. - Catalan and Spanish; and sometimes in a 3rd language -English. Sometimes though it's only in one language - Catalan. This is fine for locals because apparently Spanish is the 2nd language, so natives of the region always speak Catalan and usually speak Soanish. Catalan has words that are similar to Spanish for some, but others are more like French or Italian. Catalan uses "Les" (like French) for the plural "The" where Spanish uses "Los". Catalan uses plural endings for some words that are more like English. Mercats in Catalan is Markets in English and Mercados in Spanish. Spanish always has a vowel before the last "s" in a plural word ("os" or "Es" for example) whereas English and Catalan don't. Cheese is queso in Spanish, but formatge in Catalan (similar to fromage in French and formaggio in Italian.) Catalan also uses sounds that sound more like a "g" (as in gee whiz) or a combination of a "g" and a "z" - not found in Spanish at all. So a totally different language. We found this very interesting and one of the tour guides even pointed it out to us.
Here are a selection of pictures showing some common architecture around the city:
Tomorrow we check out and catch our little cruise ship, the Windstar "Star Breeze".