Francisco Franco is still dead

Toto might miss the rains of Africa, but I’m happy for the sun of Barcelona.

We arrived late in the evening, and Yulia and I immediately went out for Tapas. And drinks. Of course, “Tapas” in Seattle is an old Nisqually for “Charge me double for a half sized portion”, but apparently in Catalonia, if is about getting small bite sized things to eat. Who knew?

We ate and drank something then we fell asleep. Train lag works that way. The next morning our brains were also in Barcelona with our bodies, so we actually got some shit done. We already had tickets to the David Bowie exhibition here, so that was first on our list. We have a list of things to get done here, so I started but grabbing tickets to the critical tourist attractions before everything evaporated. I got some of the big things booked, then we headed out and decided to look at the town.

We walked down once of the alleys from our hotel to La Rambla, the big shopping tourist street that runs through the town. We don’t know Barcelona the way we know Paris, so following at least some of the tourist traps is an easy way to start. Also, the front desk at our hotel gave us some recommendations. We figured that just wandering around town until we hit the Gallery  for the Bowie Exhibit. La Rambla runs from Cataluña Plaza in the downtown, straight through the shopping district to the waterfront. It’s a very nice walk, with trees lining the promenade, with shops and restaurants all along. We weren’t looking for anything in particular, but just wanted to look around. This led to the waterfront. Two towers marked the Gondolas that led from the Olympic Village on Montjuic to the swimming beach on the far side of the harbor. The center of the harbor was a mix of a small marina, and fishing docks. La Rambla actually continued as a Boardwalk out into the harbor. We kept following it until it ended at the end of the pier, then we followed the pier back along the waterfront.

Paris had been warm, but with rain off and on at times. Barcelona is hot. This is a trap we fall into every year on vacation. We forget the heat and overwalk ourselves. This year we are trying to avoid this, so once we felt the heat start to get to us, it was time to hit the metro and get off our feet. It was only a few stations to the gallery, so we headed that way.

We had already bought tickets for the Bowie exhibit, so we could show up at any point and get in. When we got there, the gallery was mostly empty, so there wasn’t a line in any case. We were given headsets at the front. I thought these were guided tour headsets, like most galleries, but no. These were just for music. As you walked between different sections, the music changed to reflect the exhibit. From the start, it was amazing.

We knew about the Bowie exhibit from a friend who went here just last month, and told us it was not to miss. It would have been hard to miss in any case, as there are advertisements all over the city for it. Apparently, this is the launch of the exhibit, from here it goes to Europe, then eventually the US. We walked in to the first section and it never stopped being amazing., This was a full history of Bowie’s career. There were sections for every phase, with songs, costumes, notes, everything. Sasha was completely in awe. We all stood, listened, and watched everything they had. I knew Bowie had a big career, but you really don’t appreciate it until you see everything all at once. 3 hours later, we finally left. It didn’t seem like such a long time, but there was just so much to see. Even after listening to songs, movie clips and interviews throughout the museum, we stood at the final exit, which had concert clips playing surrounded by costumes from those concerts. We finally left after “Rock and Roll Suicide”. A young woman was crying as we left. Sasha was choking up as well.

We took a walk to decompress after this, and made our way along the streets to Sagradra Familia, Gaudi’s grand cathedral that has been under construction for 100 years. It looks like it just grew out of the ground, with an organic architecture that is unmistakably Gaudi. We had some light tapas and sangria at a local café and just rested.

When you don’t know a town, the best thing we have found is just to bite the bullet and be a tourist. Those double-decker red tour buses, while stereotypical, are hard to beat for learning a place. Our feet were tired, and we were running out of day, so we bought a 2-day pass and just rode the bus. It gave us a great looping tour of all the big tourist sites, including Park Guell, which we were going to see the next day. We went past FC Barcelona stadium, through the financial district, and hopped off there. This let us change from the “Blue” route, to the “Red” route. I had checked the map, and this would take us the closest to our hotel. We hopped on the next bus, and went through the main square, and up to the Olympic Village. I have seen so many pictures of cities where the Olympics left the city a mess. Old sports stadiums were never used again and just went to rot. It looks like Barcelona avoided that, with the Olympic village above the city still in very nice shape, and most of the venues reused as sports schools and museums, etc.

We jumped off the bus at the Funicular stop. A Cable car went p tot he top of the hill, and the map showed another that wen down to the city, right by our hotel. It too a minute to find because I’m a damn idiot, but Yulia figured out that it was the same building for both the cable car and funicular. It was the same tickets as the Metro, and we went down into a little tunnel under the station. You could look down the steep tracks into town. It wasn’t completely underground, but followed the hillside, then dove under buildings and eventually stopped in the regular metro. By luck, this was at our local metro station. We stepped right out of the metro to the lobby of our hotel.

We ended the day on the hotel roof. We have a little outdoor bar there, so we ordered drinks and watched the sunset. Not bad for an unplanned day in a new city.