Commentary By Sam Strait – November 10, 2023
Day Two and So on…..
Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and the drive in from the
airport last night certainly shows that it is spread out along the coast
for some miles. The taxi bill confirmed that. In any event I spent the
first few days learning the ropes on just how to get around without
spending most of my time here walking from place to place. It is much
to large of a place not to use Barcelona’s relatively comprehensive
public transportation system, but like all major urban centers it only
gets you so far. Plenty of walking in between places spread out over a
vast area. It quickly became readily apparent that seeing just a few
sight takes time and my few days here will hardly scratch the surface.
Just walking around in the old Medieval part of town quickly put an end
to the idea that getting from place to place would be a breeze. There
just is too much to take in as it seems nearly every building is an
architectural marvel. I was up on Barcelona’s grand shopping street,
Paseig De Grecia, filled with tourists marveling at the works of
Guadi’s, Puig i Cadafalch, and Domenech i Montaner, modernist architects
who’s famous buildings were almost crowded out by all the other sights
along the street. Broad avenues separated by pedestrian only grand
walkways, bike paths, and taxi/bus only lanes. While Barcelonense do
drive, ride bikes (somewhat recklessly), motorcycles, e-scooters and
public transport, it does have a relatively comprehensive Metro system
of underground trains. They are both cheap and if you don’t mind going
up and down an endless amount of stairs will whisk you from one side of
the city to the other in a few minutes, then the walking starts.
Just the essentials of seeing what Barcelona had to offer is not for the
faint hearted, museums seem to be on every corner, magnificent churches,
and art galleries eat at the days you have to explore, yet it seems that
you have just scratched the surface and it is time to go. Barcelona
does have a very good aquarium, a private collection of Egyptian
artifacts, the Royal Galley recreated in its maritime museum and a hill
top fortification looming over the slopes of extensive gardens.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the the spectacular Guell park and
gardens, worthy of an entire day.
The 1992 Olympics put a struggling
city on the map, and much of the infrastructure remains and has been
repurposed to blend with the tourist mecca Barcelona has become. It was
November while I was there and the weather was gorgeous, sunny and
warm. The harbor area has been reworked as it was chosen by the Swiss
to host the America’s Cup venue for two years. Much of that area, La
Barceloneta, has been sorted to be a pleasant spot to stroll around,
shop, visit the aquarium, feed the birds and watch the sail boats. The
ride on Barcelona’s Transardador Aeri ends in the harbor after passing
over the water from the Park of Castle Montjuic.
The day in Barcelona does not really begin until at least noon, and
often doesn’t end until the wee hours of the morning. Dinner never
happens until at least eight, given the fine weather the locals sit out
doors in front of their favorite cafe or tapas bar until ten or later
before heading off to a cafe, club, or bar for the evening’s
entertainment. I don’t know if it is like that in the urban centers in
the US, but here it is the norm. Some take a two hour break in the
afternoons from 2 to 4, but it has become less and less a fixture as
Barcelona has been “discovered”.
One can take an online “tour” of most of what I have seen since I
arrived, but many things just can’t be replicated by a video. The
experience of the “Magic Fountain” after the sun has set is an
experience worth living first hand.
Having a local ask you for
directions in Spanish, then resorting to finger pointing and the
shrugging of shoulders will bring a smile to any face. I didn’t spend
much time outside of the areas where the tourists normally are, but I did
notice that homeless camps are non-existent apart from a few beggars,
mostly men and older women. Enough for now, as a trip on the train in
the morning down the Coast for a couple of weeks in Valencia, Spain’s
third largest city.