17 Septiembre (Viernes) - We walked over to the Palau de Mar to get the 19 bus to the Picasso Museum. According to the bus route map, the bus is supposed to stop right in front of the place, but we saw nothing to indicate there was a bus stop. I thought we could just wait until the bus showed up, but then the rain began falling. It was already cold, so we just said the hell with it and returned to the apartment. Hopefully, the weather will clear up later.
So much for that theory. Not only did it not clear up, it actually got worse.
We were sitting in the apartment watching rac105, the local version of MTV which plays mostly videos in English, when we heard really loud drums. I looked out the door but could see nothing. Robb and I grabbed our umbrellas and walked down to the corner. There in the alley between Chito's and Como, was a group of about seven or eight young boys playing drums in the rain. They had drawn quite crowd.
We were just about to have dinner in the apartment when the rain let up a little and we made our way down to Como. There were only two people there and they were just drinking. We were warmly greeted by the waitress, a young girl from Italy who only spoke rudimentary Spanish. We ordered a white wine and she brought one from Penedés. We were wondering if it was made by Torres under a different name because it cost less. Whatever, it was good. We both chose the €19.90 menu. My first course was Ensalada de Queso de Craba, which was a green salad with cheese, sunflower seeds and toast. Robb had fried mozzarella. Our second course was Pollo al Curry (curried chicken). The third course, dessert, was a chocolate mousse with ice cream. Everything was absolutely delicious. There is no doubt we WILL return.
By the time we left, the rain had stopped. We're hoping for a nice day tomorrow, but they are predicting another day like today.
18 Septiembre (Sábado) - It was another cloudy, cool day, but at least it was dry.
We once again tried to find the bus stop for the 19 near the Palau de Mar. We once again failed. We took a taxi to the Picasso Museum where we met Susan. I'm not a big fan of Picasso, but the buildings in which the museum is housed are fantastic. Of course, the public isn't allowed to wander about, so we didn't get to see the really neat stuff. We checked out his early period when he was an actual painter, then Robb and I went down to the museum restaurant for a snack and some cava. Susan went through the whole collection.
It did rain while we were in the museum, but had stopped by the time we left.
Afterward, I was determined to find a 19 bus stop and did. Susan went back to her hotel to get her stuff and will be moving back in with us. We had to wait a good while for the 19 to arrive and discovered it doesn't go anywhere near what the route map indicates. Así es la vida.
Susan went to some kind of dance show with people she met in her travels about the city. Robb and I went to dinner atSegons Mercat. I ordered three things from the tapas menu, Robb had a salad. Luckily for me, they only brought two of the things I ordered because I could not even eat all of that. We did, however, manage to each consume four glasses of cava. When we were nearly finished, a group of six Americans entered. Good grief, they were so loud. My major complaint about the Spanish has been that they are so loud. What a noise would have been created if a group of Spaniards had joined the Americans. And just to make things unbearable, throw in a group of Italians. That would be enough noise to level the building.
19 Septiembre (Domingo) - I started my day by walkig up to the alimentacio and buying a liter of milk. Have I ever mentioned how much I love the milk in Europe? It's so much creamier and richer tasting.
Another observation. Elsewhere in the world, when two dogs meet they give each other a little 'sniff' and move on. I Spain, when two dogs meet, they want to kill each other.
Robb and I hopped aboard the 59 bus to Plaça Cataluya where we hopped aboard the 55 bus and rode to the Funicular of Montjuic. We paid our fare and rode up to the castle. It's a great ride from which you can see the whole of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea spread out before you. Including a view of the Barceloneta where we're staying. After getting to the top, it's still a pretty good walk and it's all uphill. The castle isn't really much to see, and is actually kind of small as castles go, so it's basically the views (which you already got on the funicular). There is one view that you can only get once inside the castle. It's what I assume were the baths. But if you're not the curious type, you most definitely will miss it, because first you have to enter what appears to be a display featuring pictures depicting the various periods in the history of the castle. But if you walk to the end of the display and happen to glance to the left, you will see a tiny little passageway which leads to another tiny passageway at the end of which is a glass partion that permits you to look down into the pool. One thing I really liked was the poster for the prediction of the Barcelona population in 2020.
But the weather was great and I would say it's absolutely worth the trip.
On the way home, we stopped, got a gelato and listened to a South America band,Los Andes. I liked their music and bought a CD.
Before we left for the castle, Susan, Robb and I had made a tentative plan to have a picnic dinner at the Magic Fountain in the evening, so after we got back to the apartment, we rested for a couple of hours and then set out.
We walked up to the metro station at Plaça de Pau Vila, caught the Line 4 to Urguinaona, where we got the Line 1 to Plaça España. When you get up to the surface, the National Museum of Art of Catalunya (a worthwhile destination in its own right) is directly in front of you up the hill. Near the bottom of the hill, is the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, our destination.
There are always a bazillion people at the Magic Fountain, but it's worth the trouble. We somehow managed to find a spot on the wall, set out our picnic regalia and enjoyed the show. I've seen many videos of the Magic Fountain but they cannot possibly show the majesty of this fantastic fountain. Each show is different and you would have to spend the night there to see all of them, so people were constantly coming and going. We could see a lot of them looking at us and thinking to themselves that they, too, should have thought of having a picnic. Or maybe it was the cava we were drinking.We sat through several shows, our favorite being the one that featured the music of Rodrigo.
When we decided to leave, Robb discovered his wallet was missing. He and Susan think he was robbed, but I believe he just lost it. We all trudged to the Police station which was an exercise in futility because they told us to come back tomorrow. Needless to say, poor Robb is in a state of shock.
You can see all the Barcelona pictures here: Barcelona
13 Septiembre (Lunes) -The workers showed up around 10h00 and everyone for several blocks around knew they were here.
Robb and Susan took his jeans to the alteration place around 11h00. When they came back, we walked up to a pharmacia, but they didn't have the medicine Susan wanted. While Susan and I were in the farmacia, Robb was checking out a jewelry store. He was leaning over looking at something when a fat woman bumped into him. He felt her looking for his wallet, which was not in his pocket. He shoved his elbow into her and called her a whore (in Spanish) and she took off.
We caught the 59 bus to Plaça Catalunya, but when we got to the place where we wanted to get off, the bus kept going for several blocks. Fortunately for Robb and Susan, we got off right in front of Alt Heidelberg. We went in, had a beer, then they decided they were hungry, so we went back, got a table and they ordered their lunch. Robb had some kind of anchovy sandwich, Susan had what was basically a salad on bread. I had an order of French fries.
We walked down to FNAC by way of Plaça Catalunya, where I got a couple shots of the fountains and some of the statues. In FNAC, Robb and I bought Logitech headsets with microphones because we thought we were going to be able to use Google's new phone system. Unluckily for us, it isn't available in Europe yet.
After, we walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe. Robb bought a T-shirt and I bought a guitar pin for my niece. We came out and saw a guy playing a didgeridoo to a recorded disco-rock beat. He was really very good and Robb bought one of his CDs.
We walked over to get the bus and I got us on the wrong one. But we had a nice ride, got some nice pictures and we finally got on the correct bus.
FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE! MAGNIFIQUE! I had already put the new calling equipment away, but decided what-have-I-got-to-lose and tried to call my sister in Delaware. So-of-a-gun, it was ringing. But no answer. I tried my nephew. No answer. I was about to give it up when when I figured, what the hey, and called his cell number. It rang three times and his wife answered. We chatted for awhile, bringing each other up to date. I couldn't believe it! I actually, called someone in the US on my laptop. And the connection was crystal clear. And best of all....FREE! Look out Skype. Watch your back cell phone rip-offs. Just to be sure it wasn't a fluke, I let Susan call her friend in California. Same result; three or four rings, the party answers and the call is crystal clear and FREE! But cannot make European calls....yet.
It was getting late (after 21h30) so we all trekked to Can Ganassa for dinner, but it was closed. We walked the two blocks to Passeig de Joan de Borbó and walked along eliminating the available possibilities until we came to Toc de Mar. We wanted to sit outside, but there were no empty tables, so we sat inside and the waiter promised to call us when a table opened outside. We ordered the wine, olives and some kind of sauce that Susan knew about which we put on the warm bread they waiter brought. All of it was great. We had almost finished our first glass of wine, when the waiter took us out to our table. There was a guy and girl at the next table, smoking away. They were from England. Thankfully, they left in a few minutes and were replaced by a couple of pretty girls from Slovakia who spoke excellent English. We ordered the rest of our dinner....octopus, cod croquettes, mussels and salad.
14 Septiembre (Martes) - Up early at 07h30. Susan had set up a tour of the Torres winery for whom she worked a few years ago. The car they sent to pick us up arrived about a half hour early. Neither Susan nor Robb was ready.
The ride was a great experience in its own right and we saw a lot of the Spanish countryside between Barcelona and Vilafranca del Penedés, including a cemetary built on the side of a hill. It was huge and I'm sure if we had stopped for a look, it would have rivaled Père Lachaise in beauty. I haven't driven on a European highway in a very long time and was surprised when Carlos, our driver, went through the toll station by using what in Florida we call a "Speed Pass". We started somewhat slowly, but it wasn't long before Carlos was doig well over a hundred+ kilometers per hour.
The Torres winery is famous enough to be listed on the road signs (Bodegues Torres) we passed long before we were actually close to it. We figured we were getting near when we saw the Torres Visites sign. We passed a stone marker at which Carlos stopped and made a point of having us look at it. I'm still not sure why.
We were greeted inside the very modern visitor center by Alberto, who would be our guide for the day and someone with whom Susan had worked.
We were ushered into a small movie theater in which we watched a fifteen minute movie about the history of the company. Then we went into another room that simply blew my mind. We were standing on one side of the room while a film was shown on the other wall. And the the most amazing show began. We could smell the rain. We could smell the grapes as they were picked. We could smell the wine in the various stages of its development. It was just amazing.
After that great show, we boarded a tour train and rode through the vineyards. Alberto and we got off the train while it, and the other visitors, continued on their way. We walked and walked while Alberto kept up a running dialogue about what we were seeing and how it fit into the process of making wine. We saw, and tasted, grapes that were just picked, beingdumped into a machine that separated the grapes from the leaves and stems. We saw huge storage tanks that were turnedautomatically to rid the wine of sediment. We saw tanks that could hold 500, 000 liters of wine.
We walked through a museum in which they had a vintage Renault as well as wine casks and jugs from Italy and Greece that were over two thousand years old.
On the way to the wine tasting, we passed a fig tree on which the fruit was just getting ripe and I had my first "I picked it off the tree myself" fresh fig. I thought I knew how figs taste, but this was unbelievably better.
Then we went to the company owned restaurant where we tasted ten very good wines, the last one of which sells for $190 per bottle.
After that, we walked around the corner to the dining room. Susan was almost in tears when she saw they had put her name at the top of the day's menu. The first course was two kinds of bread with olive oil and the end of the expensive bottle of wine. The second course was a green salad with tuna, we were served a white wine. The main course was sirloin with a fantastic morille sauce and a very nice red wine. Then, of course, the cheese with red wine. Dessert (of which I did not get a picture) is difficult to describe. Imagine a créme brulée. Now partially freeze it so that only the center is frozen. Served with a red wine. The dinner table after the meal was loaded with glasses, some not quite empty.
During the course of the meal, we were greeted by several members of the Torres family, including the current head of the family, Don Miguel, the picture was taken by one of the kitchen staff.
Our tour ran over the normal time length and after receiving some parting gifts (wine of course), we said our goodbyes and hit the road back to Barcelona. Carlos drove us through the town of Vilafranca del Penedés instead of retracing our morning route.
We returned to the apartment very happy campers, but totally exhausted, We all slept for awhile.
15 Septiembre (Miércoles) - Robb and Susan were up bright and early. They went out to get coffee and a croissant. I barely had my eyes open, but while they were gone, I got up, took a shower and did all the usual morning stuff. I had just thrown on a pair of shorts when I heard a commotion right outside the window, so I had a look. It was the city street cleaners.
Robb and Susan were gone longer than I expected because after their breakfast, they went shopping. Robb came back to the apartment, while Susan went on to a museum. After Robb tried on his new shorts, we walked up to the Palau de Mar and the Museu d'História de Catalunya. The entrance fee is €4 for the permanent collection, or €5 if you want to see the special show. We paid the extra €1 for Robb, I got in for free because I'm a senior.
It was a great exhibit, but the permanent show is really the star of the museum. It starts at the very beginning ofCatalunya and takes you right through to today. Some highlights were fortress models, ships with oars, a cannon, a castle, the King's tent when they were in the field, and a primitive dwelling. I also liked the vintage Seat 600, one of the first cars produced in Europe in the sixties. After the tour, we went up to the fourth floor restaurant for a 'quick snack', where we got a great view of the marina at Port Vell.
Things got a little crazy when we all lost sight of each other. Somehow Robb got the idea that Susan and I had left, and he walked back to the apartment. We spent quite a while looking for him before I finally got through to him on the phone.
Around 18h00, we walked down to the New Orleans Tea and Coffee shop. We chose a seat on the terrace and had a coffee. We sat there for an hour or so just enjoying the beautiful weather, the beautiful atmosphere and the beautiful people.
16 Septiembre (Jueves) - The dust in the apartment was bothering Susan and keeping her up most of the night, which of course, meant that we were kept up most of the night. Last night, she called a hotel, gathered some of her things, then she and Robb walked up to the Borbó where she got a taxi. She is supposed to come back today to pick up the rest of her stuff.
My observation about the stink we smell quite often in the Barceloneta turned out to be wrong. We were in another section of the city and the smell assaulted us there also.
We entered the store, looked around a bit and then, because it was about 14h00, went up to the ninth floor restaurant from which I got several nice shots, including this one of the plaza. For lunch, Robb ordered prawns and I ordered a lentil salad. We drank Torres Viña Sol, a very nice white wine.
Susan called while we were out and suggested we meet at her hotel to see a flamenco show, but of course, by the time we answered, she had moved to another hotel and no longer wanted to go to the show.
We met her at her new hotel, the Rialto near city hall and went to dinner at a place just a door or two down the street. It was a good meal. They both had monkfish and I had braised oxtail. We drank Cava, of course.
Robb and I got a taxi. We had only gone a few blocks when I realized the guy was going in the wrong direction. He didn't have a clue where he was going and ended up charging us twice as much as the ride should have cost. We reluctantly paid him and realized our opinion of Barcelona taxi drivers has forever changed. How very sad.
You can see all the Barcelona pictures here: Barcelona
10 Septiembre (Viernes) - My poor toe is very black today, but feels a lot better.
Robb went out to check on the place he wants to have his jeans altered. It was open today, but the woman who does the alterations was not there. He has to go back Monday. We stopped at a Regals i LLares (variety store) and bought some napkins. Then we stopped at a wine store and bought a botella (bottle) of red wine. On the way back to the apartment, we passed an interesting looking restaurant and decided go back for lunch.
Robb had lunch at La Taverna d'en Pep, a tiny little place with only nine tables (though I think they have another room in the back). I just had a glass of wine. I finally learned why people are still smoking inside when we both thought it was illegal - it's not. The law will not take affect until January of 2011.
While Robb was eating, a young couple came in. We heard them ask the waiter to speak either French or English, but when they were talking to each other, we didn't recognize the language they were speaking. Since they had asked the waiter to speak French, I assumed they were French and I asked the girl (in French) where they were from. She replied they were from New York. It turns out they are both French. She from Marseille and he from Toulouse, but they live (and met) in New York.
We liked the place a lot and will undoubtedly return for dinner one night.
After lunch, we walked up to Passeig de Joan de Borbó and caught the 59 bus. We rode it to the end and along the way saw much of Barcelona that we hadn't yet seen. There were a couple of places to which we definitely would like to return.
Speaking of returning, we returned to La Taverna d'en Pep, I was wrong about more tables in the back...nine was it. Dinner started with a very nice cava. The meal started with a great salad of endive, lettuce (several different kinds), onions, cucumbers and olives, which we shared. The main course (which we also shared) was barely cooked veal with foie (fat, not foie gras) and onions. Robb had dessert, somethig they called a mojita, but it wasn't a drink, it was an ice cream dish made with the same ingredients.
We walked down to La Taverna d'en Pep to get Robb's hat that he left there last night, after which we walked up to Passeig de Joan de Borbó. It was our intention to take a bus ride, but every one that pulled up was crowded, so we hailed a taxi (something easily accomplished in Barcelona) and rode to the Sagrada Familia (the Wikipedia article). Robb really wanted to see La Pedrera, the equally famous apartment building which used to be called Casa Mila, but the driver talked him into going to the church. On the way, we passed the Plaza de Toros Monumental (the bullring in which they no longer hold bull fights). I know Gaudi's moumental work is very famous, but it's pretty obvious from whence the word 'gaudy' arose.
After checking out the Sagrada Familia, which Robb thought was beautiful, we walked around the area checking out the bazillion or so T-shirt shops because Robb wants one that says "Jo 'heart'Barcelona" and not "I 'heart' Barcelona". We know they exist, because we've seen one (and only one), but we had no luck finding it.
We gave up our quest and boarded a bus to return to the apartment, but as we were riding along, I saw we were approaching the Arc de Triomf, where there was some sort of liberation fest going on today, so we got off and I got a shot of that.
None of the busses seemed to be going where we wanted to go so we hailed a taxi. Somehow, the driver got lost and drove past our street. I had to tell him he was going the wrong way. The good news is that he didn't charge us for the extra distance. We've noticed the taxi drivers here do not even try to rip you off, and they frequently point out things of interest we might have not even noticed.
Dinner at Restaurant Peru on the Borbó. Our second chance at paella and it was so much better than the first. It's still a pain in the butt to eat because they don't take the shells off the shellfish, but if you don't mind that, it's excellent. We might have sat outside, but there was quite a cool breeze from the sea, so we sat inside where we could look outside. Along with the paella, we also had mejillones (mussels) and a botella de tinto vino (bottle of red wine) and the bill was still less than we paid for one paella at the rip-off place the other night.
After dinner, we strolled across the street to walk along the marina I love the lights there. After a while, it got rather chilly and we both needed a pit stop, so we walked to Plaça de la Barceloneta, sat for a few minutes, then made our way home.
12 Septiembre (Domingo) - A very interesting day. Around noon, we walked up to the little store up the street, bought leche (milk) and lava vajillas (dish detergent - appropriately named) and took them back to the apartment.
Then we walked down to Segons Mercat, where we had intended to sit at a sidewalk table, but the stink was too much and we sat inside. It doesn't seem to be true in any other part of the city to which we've been, but there is a nasty smell that pervades the whole of the Barceloneta (luckily not inside). I think it's either from the water (they do wash the streets almost every day) or they have a terrible sewage problem. Anyway, I wasn't really hungry, so I just had a glass of red wine. Robb ordered a dish of Serrano ham and wine. The waitress brought him a little basket of bread, which I made the mistake of tasting. I swear, it is the best tasting bread I have ever eaten in my life. I told her so and asked her to bring more. I decided the bread and wine must have cheese and ordered a small plate. The cheese she brought was swimming in olive oil. I don't know if you're aware, but Spain has the best olive oil in the world. I became fully aware of that fact when I dipped my bread into it, which I normally would not do.
After our brief repast, we walked over to the beach (something we never do in Fort Lauderdale), passing what will probably be our destination for dinner tonight, another tiny place named Como, and a building that could almost be covered in a mural (I hope you can see the detail in the picture).
We had to walk though the Centre Commercial (we discovered there really is such a place) and stopped at a clothing store named Otica Moda. I came within seconds of buying yet another jacket, but fortunately they didn't have my size. Robb, however, found a really nice pair of jeans.
We continued our trek to the beach, finally finding a somewhat shady bench upon which to sit. You can see it was very crowded. A few minutes later, a guy rode up on a bike and just left it unattended on the boardwalk. I had barely remarked to Robb what a dumb thing that was to do, when I saw the guy running back to the bike carrying a backback. A girl was running after him and was joined by another bather, both shouting at the bike guy. Apparently, he had just walked onto the beach, grabbed her backpack and was about to make his getaway. His theft was successful and he had disappeared into the beach crowd within minutes.
We were supposed to be going to Como, but we ended up at Chito's. Whatever it was, it was great. We had Pulpo de la Casa (Octopus), Olivas (Olives) and Caracoles (Escargots-Snails). It was all fantastic. We started with red wine but ended up drinking white wine as recommended by the very cute waiter. Everything was great.
Around 22h00, I went out for a breath of fresh air, and found Susan making her way toward the restaurant. She joined us, had a bit to eat and caught us up on what she's been up to since we last saw her.
You can see all the Barcelona pictures here: Barcelona
6 Septiembre (Lunes) - This place is so quiet after the hotel in Frankfurt. Tried the Nescafé instant, it's marginally better than water.
Another observation: the mens and boys shorts fit a lot better over here. They're cut slimmer than the ghetto shorts in the US.
Did another load of laundry and went to the bank (La Caixa) to get more money. Robb contacted the agency to which he had paid the deposit. They replied that the amount he claimed was too much, but that's what was on the print out the owner showed us, so we're not sure what's going on with that. At any rate, we've decided to pay the full amount the owner is claiming we owe.
After, we walked over to the farmacia where I bought my breathing medicine with no subscription. The pharmacist recognized it immediately and asked how many I wanted. I wasn't really surprised because I had asked a friend to check on whether or not I could get my meds without a prescription in Spain, and he had told me the answer was "yes". I was surprised that it cost less than a third of what I had paid for the same thing in Germany. We left the farmacia and came to Baluard (a bakery) where I took a picture of the pastries and the bread. I had intended to buy some, but then the shop clerks told me I couldn't take pictures of the goods (WTF is that about?), so they lost a sale.
We're sitting here waiting for the owner to show up and collect half of the money we owe (because we could only get €500) and we know she's going to be a bitch about it. She told Robb something about having to go to the hospital to see her mother, so we don't know when she's going to get here. She had told Robb before we got to Spain, that her mother was in the hospital and her husband has been out of work for over a year, so we understand that she's probably desperate for money. Still, there are more civilized ways to go about things.
On the way back to the apartment, we passed this funny sign painted on the side of a building.
Did I forget to mention the brie and paté we bought the other day?
The owner's husband showed up for a few minutes, during which we made our complaints known. The result being that his wife will come tomorrow, fix what's broken and clean the place (it really, really need a good cleaning).
Afterward, I suggested to Robb that we could try to walk down to the Big Fish. I didn't believe for a minuite that I would be able to walk all that distance....but I did. Then we wandered a bit further because I mistakenly thought the MareMagnum was in the area. We finally asked its whereabouts of a taxi driver. It was too far to walk, so we hopped into a taxi and rode over.
The MareMagnum is a huge shopping mall located on the marina at Port Vell. The first thing we did was stop at El Chipirón from which we could see the sky chairs, and get a couple of bastides de frambuesa (kind of like a raspberry milk shake). Then we rode the escalator to the top floor and starting looking around. We were very surprised to find one of our favorite stores that used to be in Paris, Springfield. We entered a store named Jack Jones and Robb bought a nice pair of jeans. We checked out a bunch of other stores but bought nothing else.
We bid farewell to MareMagnum and started walking. When we got to the place the taxi had dropped us off, there were no taxiis to be seen. I looked across the marina and decided, even though it was a long way off, we could make it to Passeig de Joan de Borbó and Carrer de Balboa.
We walked a bit and stopped to rest several times, but we were making it. When we got to Plaça de Pau Vila, we stopped for another 'catch your breath' moment and we were approached by a guy on a rickshaw-like bike thing. I asked "how much" to where we wanted to go. He replied €4. I said, "You're hired". During our ride, we learned that his name is Mike and he's from Liverpool. He and a friend came to Barcelona speaking no Spanish, but he got the job with the bike-shaw because the timing was right. He's learnig Spanish as he works.
We went to dinner at Cheriff. I had my first paella. It was very disappointing and we were ripped off big time. Basically, we were served a big dish of rice with a couple clams and the worst excuse for a lobster tail I've ever seen. If you're ever in Barcelona, DO NOT go to Restaurante Cheriff. My dessert and Robb's dessert was good, but the best part of the evening was the couple sitting behind us. He was a Scot from Edinburgh, she was a German from Stuttgart. We all hit it off immediately.
They asked if there was a better restaurant in the area where they wouldn't be ripped off. I recommended Ca La Montse, just down the street. They went to have a look.
7 Septiembre (Martes) - We walked to La Caixa, about three blocks away, so Robb could get more money. While he was getting his cash, I wandered around a little to see what else was there. Almost next door to the bank was an office for the agency through which we had gotten involved with this apartment.
When we got back to the apartment, Robb got a call from the owner, who was supposed to clean the place today. They exchanged harsh words and we were on the verge of leaving. We walked to the agency office with the intent of gettig another place, but the guy we dealt with managed to smooth things out and resolve the money situation. The owner is supposed to show up around 13h30 to collect the rest of what we owe. This afternoon, she is supposed to send someone to clean the place. I really hope everything goes as scheduled because this is a great area and I really don't want to have to deal with another move.
Okay, the owners showed up at the appointed time and everything has been resolved. Someone is supposed to show up momentarily to clean the place. Of course that means we're stuck here until he/she finishes and leaves. Later: the owners came back with a new toaster and the maid, who is Cuban and very friendly.
After a good, much needed nap, we went out for a short walk around the neighborhood. We found some interesting places and stopped at one (Absenta) for café. Because the weather was so great, we sat on the terrace with a view of the Mediterranean just a couple blocks away Since it was just down the street, we walked down to the beach and sat in a littleplaza for a few minutes just enjoying the beautiful breeze, the beautiful day and the beautiful people. There were a lot ofboats on the Med today and one large cruise boat.
From where we were sitting, we could see the leaning boxes. I've seen these online but still have no idea what they are supposed to be, but we walked down and had a look. Then we came to a fantastic sand sculpture with smoke, fire and running water (how did he do that?).
We walked to the end of the boardwalk, turned towards Passeig de Joan de Borbó and stopped into a Spar (a supermercat by another name), where I bought an umbrella and a Magum White (white chocolate popsicle).
We started walking and felt a few drops of rain, so we ducked into Marisqueria del Port. We ordered canolones and a small botella (bottle) of red wine. We had barely been served the wine, when it started to pour. It was funny watching all the people on the terrace scrambling to get inside. The rain stopped, we finished our dinner and continued the walk home.
We came to another pastry shop where they were selling macarons. Then we came to a nice little square in which was located Església de Sant Miquel del Port. I wanted to take a couple shots of the lamp post and the square but nothing came out. Then I was beset by a coughing spell that I thought would never end. It did and we made out way home.
8 Septiembre (Miércoles) - We slept till early noon, then walked down to El Café del Mercat. Robb had a bacon and cheese sandwich, we both had a café con leches (coffee with milk). Not five feet from us was a large sign indicating Prohibido Fumar (No Smoking), but a couple of minutes later, a man, woman and child came to the café. The adults had barely sat down when they were lighting cigarettes. Smoking indoors is supposed to be prohibited in Spain, but this was not the first time I've seen someone light up in a restaurant.
We left the restaurant and walked up to Passeig de Joan de Borbó, because upon studying my map, I saw that there was supposed to be a metro station on Plaça de Pau Vila, but in all the times we've passed it, we've never seen it. I was determined to find it today, and we did. Not only did we find it, but we discovered that a lot of the metro stations have elevators. (Hello...Paris are you paying attention?) We took the elevator down and found the tiquet (ticket) machines at which to buy our metro/bus passes. There were two different kinds, we chose the shorter one. We each bought one tiquet for 70 rides for two zones. They cost €65 and some change.
We walked along becoming more disappointed with every step. I had been so looking forward to seeing it and it was even more disappointing than the Champs Elysées. We saw some interesting buildings like the Theatre del Liceu, the Dragon Building (the front of the Dragon) and a very detailed building, a statue (Frederick Soler), a fountain and a typical Spanish building. There was a neat lamp post and that was about it. Of course, Las Ramblas is famous for it's people posing like statues, but they were nothing like the pictures I've seen. They were like poor caricatures of what they should have been. Kind of sad really, and most people were just walking past without even looking. There was one last reason to keep going, that was La Boqueria, the king of all mercats. Even that was a bit of a let down. So I'd have to say, Las Ramblas was a waste of time and I'm really glad we didn't get the apartment close to it.
In direct opposition to the rest of the day, dinner at Can Ganassa was great. The resto is in the square, Plaça de la Barceloneta, in front of Església de Sant Miquel del Port. It's a lovely setting, and no matter which direction you're facing, you'll have a great view. Our waiter was very nice, as well as friendly and knowledgeable. I had botifarra amb mongetes i aminida (white beans, sausage and salad), Robb had chocos (fish sticks and salad). We drank Sangria de Cava. The drink was very nice, especially the finish when we got to the fruit in the bottom of the pitcher.
9 Septiembre (Jueves) - I bashed my toe really good this morning. It's not broken, but it really hurts, so I won't be doing any walking around, at least for today. Hopefully, it will be better by tomorrow when Susan joins us in Barcelona.
In the meantime, here are some pictures from around the Barceloneta.
Barcelona's version of city-provided rental bikes, called Bicing.
In spite of my damaged toe, we walked down to Ca La Montse for dinner. I had the mussels and a croquet. Robb had shrimp and a salad. We both decided that wasn't enough and ordered patates brava (potatoes with a luscious sour cream sauce) to share. For dessert, Robb had flan and I had a chocolate sorbet.
You can see all the Barcelona pictures here: Barcelona
3 Septiembre (Viernes) - Hola desde Barcelona. The mix-up with the flight to Barcelona was finally resolved. Vincent reminded Robb that he had purchased a round trip ticket because it was less than a one-way ticket and Robb had forgotten that. But we still were scheduled to fly at 07h55 which meant we had to be at the airport by 05h55, which in turn meant that we had to be up by 04h30. Somehow we did it, though we were extremely tired.
A new problem arose when we got to Barcelona. Neither of us had written down the address of the place and we couldn't get into our computers at the airport because it wouldn't accept our passwords. We found a terminal that would let us on the internet for fifteen minutes for only €1. By the time we got on and got the address, it was after 13h00. Robb called the owner, told her we were on our way and we got a taxi, but the driver didn't recognize the address. We called the owner again and found that the address was different than the one we had.
The apartment is on an alley-like street and is nowhere near as nice as the pictures would indicate. Then we had a further problem with the owner because she expected full payment on arrival. Robb had already paid about €550 to the agency, but after he paid it, she quit the agency and apparently they never gave her the deposit and she wanted Robb to pay it again. He would not. But he did go to an ATM (getting lost in the process) and got almost enough to pay the difference. There was a problem with the ATM; it would only let him have €100 at a time. He managed to come up with almost €300, but the owner was adamant that she would have the whole thing. They went to another ATM together and somehow managed to get another €500, but she was insisting that it wasn't enough. For the moment, we are ensconsed in the apartment, but we're not sure how this is going to work itself out in the long run.
On top of all that, the owner left and forgot her wallet with all the money in it.
As we usually do, we walked down to the corner market and bought some essentials; coffee, milk, sugar and orange juice. The only milk being sold there is the non-refrigerated kind. It's really very tasty.
And we busted another myth on the very first day. As long as I can remember, I've been told that people in Spain go to dinner around midnight (Medianoche). We went out for what we thought was an early dinner around 22h30. Every thing was closing. We walked down to Passeig de Joan de Borbó (the closest thing to a main drag) where we found a few things open, but nothing we liked. Then we decided to go back to an open store we had seen on the way to Passeig de Joan de Borbó, but by the time we got there, they had closed also. So forget all that stuff you hear about the Spanish eating so late and for several hours.
4 Septiembre (Sábado) - We walked out into a world bathed in sunshine and warm, but not hot, temperatures. Our purpose was to check out the Mercat (a huge mall-like place that sells all kinds of seafood, cheese, meat and veggies) a couple of blocks down the carrer and across the street from Can Ramonet (a restaurant) with a nice terrace section. The first thing we saw upon entering was a place to recycle batteries. The second thing we saw was El Café del Mercat, where we could have a café con leche and a croissant for only €2.50. We noticed sitting there, that the Spaniards are very noisy people, and just about everyone who came into the market knew everyone else. After our breakfast, we walked around the entire place, stopping at one stand where Robb bought a couple cans of olives (they're delicious) and a small jar of white asparagus (esparragos). Then we found there was a good sized supermarket there. We entered that and bought some things we needed or wanted.
Back at the apartment, I rested for a while, then we walked to the little market just at the end of the block to buy washing machine detergent because we didn't find it at the Mercat. We did a load of white stuff and I uploaded my pictures to Flickr.
Around 18h00, we went out for a walk. Saw some neat stuff like this ship-like building, a neat fountain (there were three of them in front ot the ship building), an interestig building between two modern buildings. We walked around the ship building and came to a group of people taking photos They seemed to be a photo club. We passed a football field where the Barceloneta team was practicing. We continued walking and came to La Fabrica del Sol, a great looking building. Behind that was a park area with people all over the place and a lot of dogs. We walked through there and saw a bunch of pigeons. But as we got closer, we could see they weren't all pigeons. Several of them were cockateels (or whatever those little parrot-like birds are called) and I noticed that one of them was wearing a tag around its neck.
We continued walking through the park, coming to a statue of Simon Bolivar. We walked across the street and, at 19h00, came face to face with the Mediterranean Sea. How cool is that? We walked from our apartment to the Med. It was teeming with people. Ever since we got here, I've been looking forward to seeing the Big Fish, as I call it. It was just to the left of where we were standing. We hung out there for awhile, then returned to the apartment.
Dinner tonight was at Ca La Montse. We had the fixed price dinner, six tapas dishes for two for €22 and a bottle of cava (Spanish champagne) at €20. Somehow, the bill was only €32. They brought so much food to to the table, there was no way we were going to eat it all. Neither Robb nor I recognized most of the things on the menu, so we let the waitress chose the dishes. This is my interpretation of what we had: fried calamari (the only thing on the menu I actually recognized), potato salad, mussels in a fantastic sauce, either sardines or anchovies (which ever they were, they definitely were not from a can), baby octopus (surprisingly delicious) and home-fry potatoes with a delicious sour cream sauce. The waitress seemed surprised that we couldn't eat it all.
Ladies, you may want to skip this part of the entry. Back at the apartment, I was watching TV half-heartedly while writig this entry, when my attention was grabbed by a commercial for a dildo, you've got to love the expression on her face. Yep, I said dildo. And they weren't satisfied with just selling it, they had to show how to use it. I can just imagine the religious nuts in the US seeing that during the late, late show.
5 Septiembre (Domingo) - We discovered today, that the toaster doesn't work, so that certainly screws up our breakfast plans. Or, hopefully, we just don't kow how to turn it on (I whispered 'I love you', but it didn't work). Also, there's no way to make coffee because the only coffee maker here is the kind that makes espresso and it's disgustingly filthy. We tried to clean it but it's a no go. We decided to have some tea and do some laundry (a couple pairs of jeans). Then we went out for a walk.
We found a little store up the street that was open (run by an Arab of some sort who was listening to a religious service on the radio) and we bought a small jar of Nescafé instant coffee. We're hoping it won't be too bad.
We took it back to the apartment and left to begin our walk again. We made our way to Passeig de Joan de Bobó, walking almost the full length of that, stopping at a gelato place. While we were sitting there eating our gelato, a busload of German teenagers showed up. They were from Düsseldorf, but they didn't seem too interested in talking to strangers.
We left there and walked until we saw a sign pointing to a "Centre Commercial". We thought we would investigate even though we were pretty sure it would be closed on Sunday. The only problem was that we never did find it and we're not really sure that we hadn't been walking through it because there were a lot of little stores (mostly closed) along the street. We followed the street to the end which, again, brought us to the Med and a bazillion restaurants. The beach was crowded as far as the eye could see. It was a great beach day. Temps were in the eighties. Though it was hot in the sun, it was cool in the shade.
We had seen the Mercat down one of the side streets, so we walked back there, saw some information obviously intended for French visitors, and made our way home, where we took our clothes out of the drier and started a second load. Once they were in the drier, I took a nap for an hour or so.
Around 21h00, we walked down to the corner to Segons Mercat, a nice looking restaurant in which the waiters do not speak English, and the language is something unrecognizable. It's not Spanish and it's not Catalan. We were directed to a table on the side under a cute painting from which I got a good look at the unusual floor. Even though the staff doesn't speak English, the back section of the menu was in English, which was the only way I knew what I was ordering. I had the "typical food of Portugal". It was potatoes that were 'julienned' and fried, around scrambled eggs with some kind of fish, olive oil, garlic and something we think was finely chopped black olives. Robb had a seafood mix of mussels, cockles and clams. We drank a nice cava. For dessert, I had a luscious panna cotta, different than the panna cotta I remembered Robb had something called "3 chupitos", he thought one was Tira Misu. Excellent stuff
After dinner, we went for a short walk around the block,which wasn't all that short.
You can see all the Barcelona pictures below (there are a lot of pictures which I haven't included in the entries).