"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

LonLisBar Trip (Days 5 & 6) 41 Hours in Barcelona

December 31, 2010
We spent the shortest amount of time in our last city, Barcelona, thanks mostly to the screwy British Airlines route from Lisbon that took us back up north two hours to Heathrow to change planes in London and then fly back south two more hours to Barcelona instead of a quick jaunt east across Spain, but who can ever figure out the logic of airline routes sometimes.
We again had a pre-paid service pick us up at the lovely Barcelona Airport and deliver us fairly quickly to our hotel, the Novotel Barcelona City, a relatively new skyscraper hotel located in the business district of the city. Our room was 16 floors up with a jaw-dropping view toward downtown with the amazing Agbar Building next door (a similar shape to The Gherkin in London) and the famous cathedral designed by the famous Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi, La Sagrada Familia, jutting skyward in the background (photos above). We only had time to drop our bags and freshen up quickly because our driver, Paco, for our city tour was waiting in the lobby when we arrived. It was New Year's Eve and the selection of tours available in Barcelona were slim to none. This was our priciest tour of the trip, but it was 4-hours long, it was private and it was luxurious since it was being conducted in a sweet Mercedes Benz...a far cry from WHTT's old "# 14" van back in Lisbon. Paco is an older gentleman with older opinions and interests...again, a far cry from our experiences with WHTT, but he was sincere and efficient in showing us a great amount of the city with plenty of stops especially focused on Antonio Gaudi including La Sagrada Familia (photo below), Parc Guell (photos above), Casa Ballto (the House of Bones) (photo below), and his Casa Mila' Apartment Building (photo below).
Paco explained that Gaudi was a lover of nature and natural creation and his work reflected that with little to no use of straight lines or corners since there are no such things in nature. This curvacious style went against the beliefs of many other architects at the time including his mentors and teachers who later became rivals of his. The city of Barcelona is a cavalcade of different styles of architecture sometimes even on the same block. It can make a first time visitor quite dizzy and confused.
Barcelona was, to be honest, interesting, but a very, very strange city…kind of like Guadi himself. Vastly different from Lisbon in style and feel and yet they are very close in culture, heritage and distance. At first you don’t think there is any rhyme or reason to the city and then it starts to kind of flow together and you kind of get it…kind of like Gaudi’s work….it’s no wonder he is the undisputed champion of this city because his influence seems to go far beyond just his architecture. Our tour continued up to the Olympic Stadium where the Summer Games were held back in 1992. Just past the stadium was a park on a high hill that allowed us a wonderful night view of this dazzling city. Next we headed down toward the waterfront along Christopher Columbus Avenue at which one end is adorned with a huge pedestal on which a statue of the national hero pointing toward the sea is situated in the center of a busy intersection circle. We stopped in the older part of town and did a little exploring on foot as well. The temps were a bit cooler than Lisbon, but not bad at all considering it was winter on the Mediterranean Sea. Barcelona had a lot of Christmas lights up as well which added to the allure. Paco delivered us back to the hotel with a few hours to spare before our New Year's Eve dinner reservation. His tour was good and he was sincere in his work, but overall when it comes right down to it, we would still rather be in a beat up van in Lisbon than in a Mercedes in Barcelona. We took a cab down to the waterfront for dinner. We are not going to mention the name of the place we ate at because in a word it was...horrible. A complete tourist trap. We made a quick decision to have a bottle wine there and a couple of their bland appetizers and get out as quick as possible ( a New Year's resolution we each made to each other to not waste time and/or money on obvious bad service, bad ambiance, etc. anymore). We were also very tired and decided instead of trying to find somewhere else to eat, we would just go back to the room and celebrate the new year with a bottle of champagne and some dinner from room service. What's not to love? We had a great room in a new hotel, a terrific view of the city and we could sit around in our "comfortable clothes." It was terrific and probably the right decision as we watched the local news the next day and saw images of workers cleaning up lots of broken glass in the streets of Barcelona plus police barricades that had been knocked over and thrown around. Evidently, New Year's Eve isn't very organized here and gets a little rowdy in the streets.
January 1, 2011 - Happy New Year from Barcelona!
We rewarded ourselves with a late, late sleep in today after several days of very early rising. Plus, there were zero tours available on New Year's Day in Barcelona. In fact, one response we got to an inquiry about a tour on New Year's Day was "Absolutely not! Our hangovers will be too much!" You gotta love honesty.
We headed out well after noon and took a cab back down to a place that Paco had shown us the day before called La Rambla. It's a busy, well-known street of bars, restaurants and shops that both locals and tourists both frequent. We actually had much more fun veering off La Rambla down some of the narrow side streets running out from it. We sampled tapas in a few different places, had a couple of drinks, did some shopping while all along snapping a series of funny (at least to us) pictures from the streets of Barcelona. Here are a few of our favorites:
Let's face it, Barcelona is just weird. Not all bad, not all good, just weird. Now we embrace weird for the most part (we love the quirky U.S. towns of Asheville, NC and Austin,TX for example) as long as it's weird with a purpose. Barcelona's weirdness seems to lack purpose at times and just comes off as kind of a mess. We enjoyed our brief stay here and would come back if the opportunity arises (it does have a cruise ship port). Epilogue: January 2, 2011 - Our flight home from Barcelona back through Heathrow was without much newsworthiness. We did get a surprising upgrade to Business Class on our way from London back to Atlanta which was very, very nice. Who knew you could actually sit in an airline seat and cross your legs comfortably! Returning to always-busy "ATL" was a bit of an ordeal as we had to collect our baggage twice: once off the plane and once after a U.S. security check. The drive home was a bit long but we were back at the house by 11 P.M. Overall, a great trip. Lots of sites seen, some friends made and a lotta laughs throughout.

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