This time from Spain...
23.04.2008 - 24.04.2008 22 °C
Our impression of Spain is much different than France. We took the scenic route along the Mediterranean Costa Brava and hardly realized we were crossing the border, marked only by an abandoned, grafittied block building and a sign saying "Espana". Needless to say, no new stamps in our passports. The difference in appearance of the villages was immediately apparent. More run down, none of the Disney-esque perfection of the French villages. We apparently were on the hooker highway to Barcelona. There was a girl sitting by the road every few kilometers, and every once in awhile an empty folding chair. We stopped for lunch in Girona, and happened to land in the middle of a huge Catalan celebration of their patron Saint Jordi. We also wandered around the ancient bishopric and took a tour of the Arab Baths before hitting the road again. I must say, we were a bit paranoid about Spain, and were relieved to find our car was not broken into. Upon arriving in Barcelona we promptly parked in a secured garage and put the key in the hotel safe, along with our other valuables. Regrettably, the #1 advisory about visiting Barcelona is keep you hand on your wallet! Luckily we've had no problems as we've explored the city, having been here now for 24 hours. The first difference, of course, is in the size of the city relative to the provincial villages we stayed in
in France. Also, the timeline of activity is very different. In France, everything closes down promptly at 5:00. In Barcelona we arrived at 5, and found a bar for tapas near the hotel, then wandered along La Rambla until 10:30, and it was still packed shoulder to shoulder when we gave up and went to bed. What a difference this morning when we practically had La Rambla to ourselves, with the exception of the human statues who were just getting in costume and smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk prior to entertaining tourists all day. We made another big walking tour of the city, stopping at buildings designed by the architect Antonin Gaudi and his most famous project and museum, La Sagrada Familia cathedral, begun in 1882 and still under construction, slated for completion in 2038. It was definitely different than all the cathedrals we saw in France. We were able to take the lift to the top of one of the spires for a magnificent city view. We got plenty more city views at street level as we made our (long) way back to the hotel for a siesta before dinner tonight, when we will find a tapas bar in the gothic quarter and relieve our aching feet with Cava!