A Travellerspoint blog

Spain

Bye Bye Barcelona

sunny 22 °C
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"Catalonia: The Next Independent State in Europe." - Banner in the main square in Barcelona. Hmmmm maybe....?

Foodie moment

Time for another delicious, good value 'Menu Del Dia'. As always we ordered different things so we could try more of what was on the menu. Starter included both of us trying Squid ink risotto for the first time... it was actually nice but definitely not a first date food...black dyed teeth and tongues are not attractive!

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Cultural moment

As we travelled around Spain something became more and more obvious to us.... Catalonia (The region where Barcelona is situated) and the rest of Spain (particularly Madrid) don't really get along. We thought it might be a Melbourne vs Sydney type of thing but we found out there is a lot more to it. Until the 18th century, Catalonia was an independent state with their own language, political power and traditions. This ended when the new Bourbon king, Philip V of Spain imposed a unifying legislation and administration across Spain meaning an end to the Catalan ways. The independence of Catalan fluctuated and fell over the following years, depending on the leadership of the time. The most difficult time was under the dictatorship of Franco, where the Catalan language was banned and made illegal, only being kept alive in private conversations. Since Franco's death a level of autonomy has been brought back to Catalonia with the recognition of their language and promotion of their culture, a majority of those that live in Catalonia still fight for Catalonia's full independence. Our guide said that there is a referendum next year, and he is certain that the number of people who will vote for independence will be in the high nineties. Having said that, ultimately it is the government's decision so the voting may be completely irrelevant. So in the meantime, the Catalan people protest by flying their own official flag, often in the place of the Spanish flag!

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Wow moment

Barcelona is filled with many cathedrals, each with their own style and features.

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Wow in a different way was visiting one of the squares in central Barcelona. The walls of Saint Philip Neri Square are spattered with the scars of bullet fire and shrapnel, which occurred during the Spanish civil war in 1938. 42 people, including 20 children, where killed as they sheltered from the bombs in the church. The building has been left with the scars of the war to remind people of the impact of war.

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What we learnt today

Eulalia of Barcelona is the patron saint of the city. She was a 13 year old Roman Christian girl who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians, in the reign of the Romans. The legend of her execution is a great one. She was sentenced to death by being put in a barrel full of blades and broken glass, which was then rolled down a hill 13 times (one for each year of her life). It is at this point that the legend makes her a saint, because when the emperor opened the barrel he was shocked to find her still alive. He was so angry that he then strung her up naked to humiliate her, but at that point it started to snow and her modesty was protected by the cover of snow (hmmm snow in Barcelona?). Then the Emperor was really angry and he chopped off her head, and when he did a white dove was said to fly out of her body and off into the sky. Hence started the legend of Saint Eulalia. It is also said she shares the patron saint title, and is not too happy about it. As you know we went to a festival a few nights back in honour of Saint John, so when it rains on the day of the feast of Sant Joan the people say that is is Eulalia crying that, for one day, she is forgotten and someone else is being worshipped!

Posted by travellinglise 13:33 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (0)

Moments of serenity on Montserrat

sunny 23 °C
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“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!" ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Foodie moment

Excited by the fact that we found a great restaurant on a day other than our last, we headed back to Gilda by Belgious to try their main course menu. Once again, free Cava and a tapas (Pan Con Tomate), yum! Then Mark decided to have a full size portion of the Beef Flemish stew made with Leffe beer from yesterday, while I had the Duck (which unfortunately I can't remember what it was with). Once again, both presented beautifully and tasted delicious!

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Cultural moment

Whilst at Montserrat we decided we may as well go and see the black Madonna which is one of the special artifacts housed there. Little did we know how many people pilgramaged to see her, and how long they were willing to stand in line. It wasn't until you were inside the doors, and past the point of a tactical retreat, that you realised the line wound all the way to the back of the church and up the stairs! I was ready to give up but Mark is stubborn and thought that it must be worth it! Nope, after over an hour in line (that's way longer than any we waited in in Disneyland!) we had 5 seconds each to stand in front of a frankly scary model of Madonna and baby which was about 50cm tall. Not overly impressed! I think we'll leave the patience to the properly religious from now on!

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Wow moment

Montserrat is situated about an hour by train outside Barcelona. It is a monestry and small village set on the top of a mountain. To get up there you can catch a cable car or funicular, obviously we went the cable car as its much more fun!! Although the Basilica and market stalls are nice to visit, the highlights are the views. Sitting in the sun, drinking a beer with stunning vistas across white mountains below us. Feeling on top of the world! A beautiful escape from the city!

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Today we also visited the famous La Boqueria Market. Full of muticultural treats, as always I wanted to eat everything! Cheeses, meats, seafood, olives,lollies and fruits! The size of the oysters were particularly impressive! And i found my favourite treat from when my Aunt Barbara lived in Spain and used to bring us presents...Turron!! (More on that later)

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Posted by travellinglise 09:04 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona montserrat la_boqueria Comments (0)

Totally tapas - With an international twist!

overcast 19 °C
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“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” - Orson Welles

Foodie moment

We stumbled across this place when looking for food, and were drawn in by the offer of one free tapas and a glass of Cava with dinner before 8pm. Gilda by Belgious served us up one of the best foodie moments we have had for our whole trip. The ambiance of the restaurant was one of a cool lounge, and the waiter we had was incredibly friendly and helpful. Gilda specializes in international tapas so we could try some new things.. and the food was DIVINE! We ordered Triangles of fried Camembert with caramelised onions and balsamic vinegar, Traditional Flemish beef stew made with Leffe beer (Marks absolute favourite), Bluefin red tuna ceviche (OMG - my highlight!! So much tuna and so juicy and delicious) , Argentinian grilled prawns with garlic and ground pepper and our free tapas was Bravas Gilda which is their own special version of traditional fried potatoes with Aioli with the addition of Sundried tomatoes, coffee and cinnamon. After such amazing food we couldn't resist desert - Belgium chocolate mousse and Creme catalina. Food was beautifully presented, flavoured and thought out.. a top quality chef, restaurant and waiter.... and yep, such reasonable prices!!

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Cultural moment

A highlight of street 'performance' today on La Rambla. A man created a piece of Spray paint art in front of our very eyes... So amazing to watch! You honestly can't believe it is created completely using spray paint until you watch it come together step by step. If we weren't backpacking for another month, we would have bought it for sure!

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Wow moment

Stretching down the side of central Barcelona is the Pg. Lluis Companys park with Spain's own Arc de Triomf. It was busy with people recovering from a big night at the festival, and was a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and soak up some sun.

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What we learnt today

The residents of Barcelona just couldn't give up the opportunity to set off more and more firecrackers. Not only was the air still heavy with the smell of gunpowder from the night before, it seems they had left overs and they kept going off all day. Not the best when feeling 'tired'!

Posted by travellinglise 10:38 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (0)

The beach burns bright, with the fires of the night..

rain 23 °C
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It's a night of Fire, Fireworks, Coca cakes and Cava, but not of sleep. Happy Sant Joan! Bona revetlla a tots!

Foodie moment

As a guest of the St Christopher's hostel we got 10% off food in the bar downstairs making it incredibly good value, especially considering the size of the portions. I have to admit we also enjoyed having a meal that we knew what we were ordering and that tasted like something we would eat at home. All this amazing food around, but sometimes you just want something familiar and comfortable (and cheap!).

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Cultural moment

We had fast forwarded a section of our trip so we could be in Barcelona for the 23rd of June - The Feast of Sant Joan. This is celebrated in association with the Summer Solstice and Sant Joan is associated with 3 symbols - water, fire and herbs. Basically this means that the Feast of Sant Joan is celebrated with thousands of people on the beach setting off firecrackers, fireworks, bonfires and swimming in the ocean after midnight (not sure where the herbs come into it -maybe i shouldn't ask!) - all of which is meant to be bring health and happiness for the next year. As you can guess it was a loud, crazy and hectic night.... and no, i will never get used to firecrackers going off right next to me!

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Wow moment

La Rambla is a main street in Barcelona that runs from Placa de Catalunya down to the waterfront. Packed with stalls, some very inventive street performers, men selling annoying whistles that make duck noises and street artists - its always interesting, if not over touristy (and expensive!) but is still a must visit boulevard.

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What we learnt today

At the end of La Rambla is a huge column with a statue of Christopher Columbus on it. He is standing pointing triumphantly at his land of discovery, America. Yet in fact, geographically America is the opposite direction, but rather than stick to facts the designers thought it would make more sense to have him pointing out to sea...hmmm.. I hope Spanish school children don't use it to learn their geography!

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Posted by travellinglise 11:33 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona sant_joan Comments (0)

And on the eighth day, Gaudi created Barcelona...

sunny 28 °C
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“Don’t worry, my client isn’t in a hurry.” - Antoni Gaudi (when objections were raised as to the extended completion date of the Sagrada Familia.)

Cultural moment

A definite cultural moment for us was our time spent on the overnight train between Granada and Barcelona. We decided to opt for a sleeper bed rather than a seat for the 11 hour journey and it was quite an experience. The first surprise was that we were in different carriages on the train as males and females were separated (not sure why this was a surprise!). The cabins were tiny, holding 2 bunk beds, our roommates 3 random strangers. We hung out in the bar for a while watching a beautiful sunset then headed off to our separate beds. I actually loved it - my new favourite way to travel! Mark wasn't as sold!! It would be a much better experience in our own cabin though... One of my room mates got on the train at 2am and that wasn't a great way to wake up as the lights were turned on and she clambered her way to the top bunk! Even so, best sleep i've had in a while!!

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Wow moment

The Barri Gotic (Gothic area) of Barcelona is a step back in time. Old winding streets, cobblestones and some really interesting street art.

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One of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona is still a work in progress. La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi's masterpiece, he started it in 1882 and spent 40 years working on it until his death, he only lived to see the crypt, the apse, and the nativity facade. It is still being constructed and the finish date is looking like 2020. We think that unfortunately the scaffolding as well as the difference in materials and style takes away from the look of the church. Maybe it should have been left as it was when Gaudi died? Or maybe the Spanish need a little less 'Manana' and more just getting it finished!! Anyway, it will apparently have 18 towers when finished, all over 100m high, so i guess we'll just wait for the final product - 138 years in the making!!

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Another Gaudi work is Park Guell. Situated high up on a hill overlooking Barcelona, it not only gives you the best panoramic view of the city, it is also a great place to explore filled with colourful mosaics, 'gingerbread houses' and caves. If you survive the walk up, it is a great place to spend an afternoon.

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What we learnt today

Antoni Gaudi is Barcelona. The Spanish born architect was involved in so many of the buildings and parks in Barcelona, you turn a corner and there's another Gaudi (surrounded by its obligatory crowd of tourists!). The amusing thing is the city authorities continuously tried to stop
Gaudi’s work as it exceeded city regulations. The only thing they actually ever assigned him to design was the street lights! His style is colourful, imaginative, often strange and never ever with straight lines. He seems to break all the architecture rules. We didn't get to see inside his houses he designed as the entry fee was 20 Euro each (which was way out of budget) but i really liked what i saw, Mark wasn't a big fan...preferring a more modern style of architecture.

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Posted by travellinglise 09:40 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona gaudi Comments (0)

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