Barcelona: Day by Day
|Panoramic view of Barcelona from Monjuic Cable Car|
One of the major challenges of any travel is deciding the way to commute within a city. While taxis may be the most convenient in taking one from point A to B, they are expensive and may not be available without prior booking. Taxi apps like Uber and Ola have resolved this problem to some extent but they have issues of their own. On the other hand, using public transport may be cheaper but in an unknown city, it is cumbersome to say the least. Many European cities offer a City Card that allows one to travel on various modes of public transport without bothering about individual tickets for a limited duration. Invariably such cards are expensive if one calculates the cost but nevertheless they are very convenient. Barcelona offers one a BCN Card.
|The tree lined La Rambla among its surroundings in downtown Barcelona|
After much debate and calculation I indulged in buying a BCN Card for 72 hours which included travel on the Airport metro line as well. Still, I would have made significant savings vis - a - vis taking an airport taxi. Armed with this, I triumphantly took the Airport Line from the T2 metro station on landing at Barcelona airport. And immediately ran into trouble. My 12 year old son could not board it due to the unexpectedly fast closing doors and was left at the T2 Metro station. I tried to think thru in a moment of extreme panic and gestured to him to stay put. We got down at the next station. I took the next metro back and was relieved to find my son waiting quite calmly and nonchalantly at the platform. After this rather dramatic start of this European tour I was having frayed nerves, yet I pushed on with the public transport. It involved changing into a tram line at Zona Universitaria to make it my hotel.
It was a bit confusing at the Zona Universitaria underground metro station to locate the Tram Station above. I approached one person and he gestured me to follow him and then he stopped, looking blankly in one particular direction. After a couple of minutes I decided to take things in my own hands and thanked him and tried to move away. Just then he gestured to me at the Tram which was approaching. He was waiting for the Tram to appear so that he could point it out to me! As if this was not enough he went back downstairs and offered to help me move my luggage as well! After some confusion, I managed to board a Tram and realised that it is not the correct one! Finally I get down and took a taxi!
On reaching the hotel we decided to call it a day. After the 16 hour flight from Mumbai and our eventful metro journey, we had enough adventure for the day and decided to cool our heels in the hotel.
|Panoramic view of the Port of Barcelona|
We decided to explore the La Rambla on the first day. Having familiarised myself with the complex web of metro and tram lines (I avoided bus routes) of Barcelona and armed with the BCN 72 hour card I thought I was good. And immediately I was proven wrong. My wife's BCN card refused to work at the Palau Real station and the turnstile door did not open. We managed to find a metro personnel. She took a moment to realise what was wrong and then struggled with a ticket dispensing machine for about 10 minutes, muttering and flustered. After much effort she managed to produce a duplicate BCN card for my wife. We thanked her profusely and I noticed she was wearing a yellow ribbon (a symbol for Independent Catalonia). La Rambla with its museums, shops, theatre, markets art galleries and scenes was stupendous. We had managed to walk no less than 13 kilometres and my kids were dead tired by the time we got back to the hotel.
|An ancient Church Organ on display at Museu d Musica|
We decided to do Montjuic Hill on the third day, It is a hill near Barcelona and sports fantastic views of the city, its port and even its airport in the distance. The hill is reached by a steep funicular railway and then a short cable car ride takes you up to the Montjuic castle. A crumbling ancient castle wall remains with some decrepit cells. They were used to house political dissidents during the Franco era. The central parade ground of the castle now hosts several eating joints who sell fries and roasted chicken for exorbitant sums. Most are run by Moroccan immigrants. I buy fries, chicken strips and coke from one of them. He starts chatting to me about India. His brother - in - law stays in Kerala and he shows me photographs of Munnar on his mobile phone. I explain to him that the green hills are actually tea gardens. He is perplexed by the fact that tea grows on trees! He tries to coax me into buying more fries and chicken while espousing Catalan independence. I refuse him politely. Coming down from the hill, we land up near the docks and take a scenic 45 minute boat ride of the docks. There are no less than five cruise ships docked. Then we make our way to the Museu d Musica - a museum of musical instruments. The highlight of this museum is a room where you can try your hand at playing musical instruments including the Organ, Harp, Drums and Guitar among others. Needless to say, the room has excellent soundproofing! We then trudge to another of the Gaudi wonders, the Park Guell. Like his other creations, it simultaneously amazes, inspires and abhors you. We make our way back to Liceu where I meet one of my school friends after nearly three decades! He lives in Atlanta and is in Paris for some work. He has flown to Barcelona to meet me. We catch up on the decades and gulp Spanish beer. A fitting end to a visit to a magnificent city!
|Panoramic View of Barcelona from Park Guell|