Today marked my last day in Barcelona and despite the early morning sunlight streaming through the window of my room, promising yet another glorious sightseeing day, I was not able to shake off this sense of forboding, knowing my love affair with Spain and in particular, this magical city was about to come to an end.
However, rather than wasting good energy on wallowing in self pity, I decided that if I was to leave Barcelona, it should be with a big bang, after all, no other city in Spain had been able to get under my skin the way Barcelona had, with its slow persuasive and seductive dance of life, mesmerising you and drawing you into its cocoon before transforming and releasing you back into the world as a multi coloured butterfly complete with the sense of awe, amazement and total enchantment.
I decided the best way to pay tribute to this wonderful city was to continue my delectable exploration of the city and to absorb as much as it has to offer. Here is a visual tour on some of the highlights:
First port of call, The castle on top of the Montjuic mountain, buil strategically overlooking the city during the period when Iberians and the Cantalans governed over Barcelona.
Directly facing the Montjuic castle, at the bottom of the hill which you can just see behind me, was the Piazza Espana, a beautifully designed landscape featuring a round hedge centerpiece and twin clock towers surrounding it and just in front of the hedge situated one of the city's oldest monuments.
From there, I made my way towards the coastal part of the city, where the busy city port was located, just south of the Le Rambla. Standing proud between the Le Rambla and the port area was the very highly erected bronze pillar and right at the top of the pillar stood the proud statue of Christopher Columbus pointing knowingly towards the sea. I caught an elevator up through the hollow pillar right to the top viewing booth and was able to enjoy the panaromic 360 degrees view of the city and the port. This is an aerial picture taken from the Tower on one of the port's administrative buildings.
The port area was more of a modernly designed area, complete with a marina and also a very large shopping mall where the public toilets were probably one of the bests I've ever had the privilege to use in Europe. How often could you get an amazing view of the Mediterranean sea while washing your hands at the toilet sink? However, amongst these modern complexes, there stood a piece of history that caught my attention, Spain's first submarine, very cool to look at but unfortunately, like many historical sights in Spain, you don't get any information board located beside it or if you do, they were often only written in Spanish, *mutter*.
Even without written information, the submarine commands one's respect and appreciation of the Spanish naval power of the past..
Further inland from the port stood Barcelona's proud Courts of Justice with its Moorish and Gothic mixed design.
Not to be outdone by the French, the Spanish also erects their own Arc de Triumph and even boldly named it so. Comparing it to its French counterpart, you can definitely see the latino flair in its design, can't you?
From here, I made my way to Mount Trebido, the famous mountain many Spanish believed was where Jesus were meditating when Satan appeared to tempt Him. Perhaps Jesus would have found it harder to resist if he saw this picture below instead of the bare land and a few cows..
The mountain was so high up that you had to take a tram from the bottom of the hill up to halfway and then change from that to what we call the 'cable car' but referred to as the 'furnicular' in Europe. Right at the top of the mountain is a very massive stone and cement church, although only recently built, it was built in the style of Gothic with a giant picture of Jesus Christ standing in front of it. About 20 metres southwest of the church was rather an odd sight...an amusement park, complete with roller coasters. Maybe Satan thought if Jesus ever returned as an adventurous type...
After spending a good considerable of time drinking in the magnificent view from this mountain, I reluctantly returned back to ground zero to make my way back to the Mountjuic Park where if I estimated correctly, not only would I be able to see where most of the 1992 Olympics venue, including the stadium were located, but it would also be a prime spot to catch glimpses of a beautiful sunset.
As the sun descended steadily, I walked briskly up the small hill, passing by the Montjuic Castle once more and finally reached a small park which had access to great views of the setting sun and the city basking in its dying light. Already lines of crimson red and orange could be speen splashed across the skies that were getting darker. Other than myself, there were several older people participating in a friendly game of lawn bowling while their friends watched on from a picnic table nearby. They half heartedly played cards while reminiscing about their pasts to one another, at least that's what seemed to be what they were doing judging from the laughter and animated sound of their voices. I guess for all I know they could simply be talking about how annoying it was to have tourists walking around trying to take pictures of sunsets while they're playing cards....who knows! In any case, I was too busy to notice as I happily took pictures of the many shades of a breathtaking sunset, but my favourite? See for yourself!
My time in Barcelona and Spain has set but I really didn't want o go..
Eventually, not wanting to miss my overnight train to Venice, I made my way back to the hostel and departed for the train station. Upon arrival I was alarmed not to be able to locate my train information from the gigantic departure board overhead. Despite still having a good 10 minutes before the train's departure, I could not for the life of me rid myself of the sense of panic that was beginning to build within me. I cautiously approached the information counter and showed the guy my ticket. He pointed on my ticket some Spanish words that were alien to me but basically he explained in his thick Spanish accented English, "this train leaves from another train station, not this one and you will not make it to that station in time, looks like you've missed your train". I blinked a few times trying to register what this man had just said..."NO WAY!!" my head screamed! I specifically asked the ticket salesperson when I purchased the ticket a few days ago as to whether the train was going to leave from the Sans Station (All Station, Barcelona's main station) and he told me the affirmative and now it's all wrong?
As it turned out, up to like one week ago, trains going to Italy were leaving from this train station but the trains had been rerouted to depart from the other station, the information guy went on to explain patiently to me. He didn't say it but I could see from his expression, the one we all know so well "Didn't so-and-so get the office memo about this?!"
Compounding on my poor run of luck was the fact that there were no subsequent trains departing for Venice or Milan for at least another 4 or 5 days. The only silver lining in this very dark black cloud was that they refunded me the money for my train ticket.
Once again, this was one of those "travelling experiences" one could put this down to but I can assure you I did not feel that blaze and 'c-est la vie' about the whole thing then...I was furious! One guy's "oops" had caused me inconveniences of massive proportion! Also I suddenly discovered that since I was going no where that night, I had to sort out accomodation and figure out what was the best and quickest way to get to Italy. What do you think was the first thing I did?
If you guessed going back to the city to sort out my night's accomodation (it was already almost 10pm that night), then EEEEEEEKKK, that would be incorrect. I actually went first to an internet cafe and tried to find alternative methods of getting to Italy and the best way I discovered was to stay for another 2 days in Barcelona and then fly directly to Venice. That sorted, next pressing thing on the agenda of course was to locate the sleeping abode for the night. Luckilly for me, it was certainly the "off-peak" season (if there's ever such thing in Barcelona) and I quickly found a place to stay for the next two nights. Wellll, after saying goodbye earlier, I did promise Barcelona that I would return to her, just didn't think it would be that soon! So..as the famous chinese saying goes "rice has become porridge" (food theme is big with us), there was no point really sulking, instead, time to get excited again at the thought my affair with Spain being prolonged.
Gillian (good friend met during stay in Valencia) left for Barcelona when I went to Almeria. I rememberd her mentioning that besides Gaudi, Barcelona of course was also sanctuary to Picasso and another modernist artist, Salvador Dali. As you can see, if these extraordinary figures of history with their high appreciation of aesthetic beauty could see how beautiful Barcelona was, who were we then to argue? In any case, just like Gillian, I wanted to visit the infmaous Salvador Dali's museum, located in Figueres, 3 hours train ride north of Barcelona but due to the limited time, I had to forsake this visit but suddenly finding myself with extra 2 days to spend in Barcelona, I decided that fate must have decided that I should not leave before visiting Dali and I was glad because had I not gone, I would not have seen so many of my favourite surreal artist's works. A very perculiar man indeed, especially if you see some of the statues that he created, including those of a man wearing a 1950's style underwater suit, standing beside a voluptious of a woman who surreptitiously stood gracefully balancing a gigantic loaf of French bread on her head. Yes, certainly the theory that Dali and Gaudi sharing some hash cookies while discussing their next projects sure flashed into my mind more than once!
There is nothing wrong with your computer screen, this is indeed what the outside of Dali's museum looks like. I'm going to go out of the limb here and say that I think Dali likes eggs. What do you think?
This is what happens if you're daughter of Dali wanting a doll house for Christmas!
These were just some of the eccentricities that greet you when visiting this very weird but entertaining "house of mirrors", where the strange and absurd never felt more at home here than anywhere else. The train ride back to Barcelona certainly passed by quickly with my coming to terms with what I saw.
By the time I reached Barcelona, it was getting dark and I was happy then to just take it easy back in the hostel and meeting a few people also staying there but no, did not make any lifetime friend..I can tell when you're mocking me!! :P
As my flight to Venice was in the early afternoon, I did not have much time to explore too much. But in case you're wondering though, yes, this time, I had checked that there was only ONE airport and my plane was definitely flying out from there!
I chose to spend the little time I had by visiting a cute lil Spanish village, one that has been constructed just before the Olympics of 1992 to resemble how a Spanish village would have looked like in the early 20th century. It was rather facinating to walk through the village with its old fashion equipments being used, lots of shops that mimicked the business ran in the 1910's, like glass blowing and handicrafts.
The impressive Spanish styled church and council building as it would have looked like in the 'good ol days'.
I was so worried that somehow I would get delayed again that I literally arrived a good 3 hours before my plane's scheduled departure time and I was happy to report that of course when you're early like that, then everything was uneventful and the trip was suddenly smooth sailing..oh Murphy, I hate you so...
AO Rating of Barcelona: Do you really need me to spell it out?! In total, I spent 20 days in Spain, the longest so far I have spent durig my trip in one country. It is indeed interesting, despite travelling mostly through the Andulusia part of Coastal Spain, then to Madrid, then Valencia and then Barcelona, I felt like I have seen one country with its easily recognisable particular customs and culture but yet at the same time, I noticed also how different they each were, slight but significant dissimilarities, casting their own kind of spells on you. Valencia certainly would be my most favourite city of Spain and indeed of all the cities I've been to so far, not so much judged from the perspective of its touristic appeal, but more its cosy, warm and friendly appeal, a place outside New Zealand and in Spain which I would consider calling home. Barcelona however, takes the cake when it comes to the "wow" factor. It was like watching a thriller movie with many heart gripping subplots. Each time you think you have had it figured out, you get another jolt to remind you that the journey had just started and you better buckle up if you want to survive the trip. Infinite Exhilaration..Hasta luego Barcelona, so long as the sun rises and sets on Mount Monjuic, I shall continue to hope and dream that I shall return once more..
Till then, I have a date with Venice...