Crossing the Franco-Spanish border…..
We had planned to take the shortcut from Argeles to Barcelona via the autoroute – very fast and very expensive due to the tolls. But during our stay at L’Hostalet, we had met a couple from the UK who had suggested a trip through the mountains – via the old Franco-Spanish border post. So we decided to bite the bullet and take the scenic route – and were really glad to have done so.
Sadly, we did get stuck behind a huge truck shortly after leaving Argeles, which had us questioning our decision. But once we reached the Col de la Seille followed by the rest of the peaks and passes, it was all worthwhile! As we entered Spain, we saw our first little bit of evidence of the current Catalan issue with graffiti on the road.
What we saw of Spain during our brief drive was sufficient to make us want to return. The countryside is really pretty. And we could see why horses and cattle are so strongly identified with Spain – the animals we saw were HUGE and in absolutely stunning condition. Bigger than anything we’ve ever se
Arriving in Barcelona…..
Having seen all the media coverage of the Catalan drama in Barcelona while in Italy, we had started to question whether we should cancel our time there. We had also been led to believe that the people were not very tourist friendly as visitors are pricing locals out of their city. So it was with slight trepidation that, having made the decision to stick to our plans, we arrived in Barcelona (pronounced Barthelona).
We had organised to leave our leased vehicle at the drop off point near the airport at 3:45pm. After 9000km worth of driving, we had to say goodbye. We arrived about 20 minutes early, only to discover that the car yard was all locked up with nobody there and no visible phone number (although our phones weren’t working so wouldn’t have been a huge help). Much to our relief, someone arrived at 3:50pm – couldn’t understand our concern, relax, it’s Spain! Fortunately, the procedure was quick, and everything was complete by the time our transfer driver arrived – fortunately we’d organised through the accommodation, making our arrival at the apartment much easier.
Staying in Barcelona…..
Whilst there was a small lift to carry our bags (lots of heavy ones) to the top floor of the building, we did have a further flight of stairs to navigate to get us to the apartment. The terrace and view were worth it! The apartment was a lovely spacious, airy space – we even had views of the Sagrada Familia – the Gaudi cathedral started in in 1882, due to be completed in 2030.
Our first and only significant exposure to the Catalan “situation” was hearing the helicopters – likely media – when on the terrace the first evening. There was a rally happening outside the Catalan parliament.
Vote 'yes' for independence
Eating and drinking in Barcelona…..
After the coffee in Italy and pastries in France, we thought we’d spend our time eating in whilst in Barcelona- – at least for breakfast. We couldn’t have been more wrong! The Cortado (largely equivalent to the Italian macchiato and French Noisette – were really good. And the pastries were excellent – definitely nicer than Italy’s brioche and nearly as good as the French croissants.
We’re typically not huge fans of tapas. Partly because we find it a bit oily, largely because each dish is typically too expensive. We certainly had our preconceptions changed when we visited a very nice little Tapas restaurant close to the apartment. We even had red and green mini burgers.
There are plenty of fresh food markets spread around Barcelona. We spent lots of time walking around them admiring the produce, meats, cheese and breads. We did resist a couple of times but did submit on a few occasions and bought some tasty treats. The supermarkets were well stocked and reasonable too, so we certainly didn’t go hungry.
On our first full day in Barcelona, we came across the chocolate museum. Whilst we didn’t bother spending the time and money on the displays, we did indulge in some very thick dark chocolate.
Sightseeing in Barcelona…..
Soon after arriving in Barcelona, after unpacking, we headed off to Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona’s version of Paris’ Champs Elysees. A bit underdressed in walking shorts and T-Shirt, we soon forgot about that when we saw the awesome architecture and came across our first Gaudi building, the Casa Batlló.
One of our friends described Gaudi “stuff” as Rapunzel-ish – and that’s a really good description. A mix of fairy-tale and slightly creepy / weird. We also saw one of Gaudi’s other buildings, La Pedrera, which although less colourful was more sculpture than building.
The streets in the centre of the city are designed in a nice geometrical pattern, making it easy to get around. The architecture in the more “modern” part is from the 19th century perfectly maintained. Closer to the sea, we came across a beautiful large park, containing an enormous fountain.
It is also close to the Catalunya (Catalan) Parliament, which was drawing plenty of tourists – for a look at and photo of the centre of the controversy!
We wondered down Las Ramblas, the well-known boulevards (and sight of the terrorist attack earlier in the year). Tick, touristy thing done! It was soooo busy, that we couldn’t wait to get off it and get lost in Barri Gotic, the old town with it’s narrow, windy alleyways and sunny squares. A lot more tourists than the part of town we were staying, so we were happy to head back there and relax on the terrace.
We both had colds during our stay in Barcelona, so didn’t get to do any runs. As a result we particularly enjoyed our long walk out to the marina and beachfront.