Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kleinfelter's European Adventure - Part 3 - Spain

Click here for part 2.

Day 11 (continued) - Barcelona
September 12, 2016

The rest of our train ride was quite scenic, but too long for Zoe and Zachary.  Everyone was well behaved though. I was especially proud of Jacob and Max who sat facing an Australian couple a few rows back from us. They were polite and just played on their electronics the whole time. Zoe took a nap at least, but Zach stayed awake and was antsy the whole time.  I really liked seeing an old castle in France and a fort in Spain along the way.  The train switched back and forth from high speed to regular, probably going high speed for half of the journey.  I was always too late to get a picture of the things I really liked.

We arrived in Barcelona to find more pay bathrooms, but at least this one had a children's entrance which was free for them. And they smelled slightly better than the ones on the train.

The shuttle driver was at the train station waiting for us which was great.  We got a nice view of Barcelona on the way to our apartment.  From what we've seen so far, it has a lot of old close together buildings like France, but of course they aren't the white buildings with blue tops like Paris.  More graffiti here, but somewhat cleaner?  Not sure yet until we have a chance to walk around more.

Carrer de Princesa (Our street)

Our street looking the other direction

So far we are thrilled with our apartment.  First of all, air conditioning!  I've never thought of myself as an air conditioning kind of person, but I guess I am because I really missed it over the last week.  And there is a separate washer and dryer!  The dryer is on the balcony, but I can live with that.  The washer even holds a full load of laundry!  Also 2 bathrooms.  These things are all super important to a family of seven!  There are also an abundance of restaurants, bakeries, markets, etc., right outside the door.
The apartment is beautiful and everything is in nice shape. The one in Paris was nice but rundown and smelled a little funky from being sealed up so much. This apartment smells "clean", We even have an unused bed! And the beds have top sheets and actual blankets are available in the wardrobes in case we need them. The mattresses are softer and the bedspreads/quilts are just decorative, like we are used to. This seems to be an Americanized apartment. Or perhaps they use sheets in Spain?

We had dinner soon after arriving so that Zachary wouldn't fall asleep first.  We went to a taco place that was right across the street.  Good food! Cantina Mexicana La Hacienda-- it really was the best tasting Mexican food I've ever had and we eat Mexican food pretty often. 

Early to bed tonight.  A few of the kids have been taking turns fighting a cold and Kyrie's turned into bronchitis the past few days since we've been trying to fit so much in.  Tomorrow we don't have anything booked and don't have a lot planned so she should get a bit of a break to recuperate.

Day 12 - Cathedrals, La Boqueria Market, Chocolate Museum and more
September 13, 2016

Today we slept in - yeah!  Kyrie and the girls went for a walk this morning to one of the bakeries and brought back breakfast.

We did quite a lot today even though we were taking a bit of a break.  Everything we did was within a 15 minute walk from our apartment.  We started out heading west towards La Boqueria Market.  We took our time and stopped in lots of shops.  We happened upon the Barcelona Cathedral.  The streets in Barcelona are very close together and go up and down hills, so you really can't see very far around you.  Even thought the Cathedral is very large, we didn't see it until we were only a block away.

This cathedral is much smaller than Notre Dame was, but it was quite impressive in its own ways.  This was more of a medieval style with thicker, shorter walls, but still very intricate and beautiful inside.

Later we arrived at La Boqueria Market.  There were tons of stands inside, selling everything from fruit, juices, seafood, meat, spices, bars, etc.  Our plan was to eat lunch here, but I was the only one who did.

I got some paella which is something that Spain is known for.  I'm not sure that mine was very traditional though.  It was more like a paella casserole.  The guy scooped up some paella into my bowl and then just started loading various veggies, falafel and sauces on top.  It was very good though.  The kids were looking around for something that they wanted, but then they found some of the meat stands which sold things like jamon/ham (a pork shank with the hoof still attached), chickens with the head still attached, rabbit the same way, sometimes just an animal head of one sort or another.  It was pretty disgusting and I couldn't blame them for losing their appetites.  They eventually found some hamburgers on the way back to the apartment.

This store window caught the kids' eyes

After an afternoon break we went out to the Chocolate museum.  We were pleased to get a chocolate ticket to get inside.  The museum told the history of chocolate and then had a lot of sculptures made of chocolate.
It was pretty small, but the kids seemed to like it well enough. After all the famous art and architecture we've experienced Jacob actually said, "Now this is REALart and talent." In fact we set out to go to the Picasso Museum which is literally attached to the building our apartment is in, but changed course because there was a 30 minute wait which we had no patience for today.

From there we went to El Born Mercat (Cultural Center.)  We didn't know what to expect of this place, but inside we found an archaeological dig that is uncovering the foundation of buildings and roads from earlier than the 1700's.  There are a few signs around which tell a bit about the remnants on display, but most of it tells the history of Catalonia. I couldn't really follow the history because the kids were a bit distracting and Zachary decided to spend a half hour in the bathroom because he loves public bathrooms so much.  We all really liked seeing the rock work of the foundation, and speculating about what the various shapes in the rock were for - like were the circular holes within many of the houses a well or a toilet?
The little plaques told mostly of the time just before and after the Spanish War of Succession. Don't quote me on any of this. Basically Catalonia was happy being on it's own, but Spain (and France?) took it over. One of the most interesting things is that King Louis XIV's (of Versailles fame) grandson, Philip Anjou became King of Spain. Worried about the new strong alliance between France and Spain, England and Holland and other countries declared war on them. Not sure how all that went down, but I do know that Catalonia just wanted to be left alone and even had some kind of agreement to retain their own government, but it wasn't honored. On September 11, 1714 they lost their war and along with it, their independence. 
Even before we got here, I had heard that Barcelona identifies with Catalonia and not Spain and wants to be independent from Spain. You can't walk down any city block without seeing plenty of Catalon flags hanging over railing of balconies. I also found out that civilization has existed in this area since before Roman times. Pretty amazing! All of this makes me want to learn more and come back to explore more outside of Barcelona too. And I won't mind returning for more delicious (and inexpensive) pastries, tapas, and cava too!

This picture shows laundry hanging out on the balconies. A common practice and site here.

We happened upon another cathedral after that.  This one was the St. Maria Cathedral.  I'm pretty sure that this was the third cathedral today although I'm not certain.  I really have been impressed with all of them and they all seem unique even though there is a lot that is the same.  I can't figure out why they have so many in such a small area.

For dinner we had tapas in St. Maria square.  Most of them were good, but the kids weren't very interested.  The boys did try the deep fried peppers though, which was brave.

"Look, I made the Eiffel Tower!"

Day 13 - Sagrada Familia and Park Guell
September 14, 2016

Today we visited Sagrada Familia Cathedral and Park Guell.  Both places were designed by Antoni Gaudi who is a famous Barcelonan artist with a very unique style which will be evident in the pictures.

The cathedral was started by a different architect who was soon fired after the first year for going over budget according to the tour guide.  Gaudi took over soon after that, which was over a hundred years ago.  He created designs for much of the cathedral and made plaster models of it so that workers would still know how to build it after he died since he knew it would take longer than his lifetime.  It was lucky that he did that because the cathedral was only a quarter of the way finished when he was hit by a tram (not sure what that was) in the street and died soon after.
The models he made in plaster were enormous and took ten years just to build those.

In addition to Gaudi's death, the cathedral also suffered a severe setback during the Spanish civil war.  Not only was the cathedral damaged, but the plaster models were also smashed.  Since then, work continued and the fragments of plaster have been puzzled back together as much as possible.  The cathedral still has 10 years of work left before it will be complete. The goal being to complete it 100 years after Gaudi's death.

The inside of the cathedral is mostly finished.

The columns are like trees supporting the ceiling

The stained glass is brighter than I've ever seen. I thought it was backlit, but apparently the reflection of sun off the stone is what makes it so bright. The colors start off as Fall and Winter colors on the Nativity side of the cathedral supposedly because Jesus was born in December (but I think that is pretty well accepted as inaccurate) and the colors progress to Spring and Summer tones on the Passion side with Easter being celebrated in the Spring. The tour lady may have made this part up.

The most elaborate confessional area I've ever seen
This side of the cathedral was designed by a different artist and is considered very controversial. Gaudi's sketches of the Passion side of the Cathedral showed the structure well, but the sculptures were blurry.

I can see why it's controversial. While it's moving in its portrayal of Jesus' persecution and death, the style is so different than Gaudi's sculptures on the Nativity side of the cathedral. People also didn't like that it shows Jesus naked on the cross. That's when they went so far as to throw tomatoes at the building!

Here are pictures of Park Guell...

There was a two hour wait to enter Park Guell. It was perfect timing really since we needed some time to eat lunch. We got our tickets and entry time of 13:00 and walked down the hill to town to find lunch.

Marc was not as impressed with Park Guell as the children and I were. He even compared it to the roadside attraction grottos in Wisconsin... ugh! I thought it was beautiful and obviously the views are amazing.

Max adds to his hat collection...

When Zach wants a nap he pulls his shade down...

For dinner we had some more tapas and paella.  So far we haven't found anything that great to eat, but at least the prices are way better than France! Nothing outstanding (besides the Mexican place!) But not bad either. Before we came, I thought we could have trouble finding food we will eat since we despise seafood and are picky about meat in general.

Nobody is complaining about the churros and chocolate!

Day 14 - Bus Tour 
September 15, 2016

Our breakfast today was at an American style 50's diner.  It was good to have some American breakfast for a change.

Some of us stuck with Spanish cuisine...heuvos rancheros

Christopher Columbus statue pointing to the new world
We took an Hop On Hop Off bus tour.  It wasn't as good as the one in France - didn't provide much information. It mostly just told what we were looking at - but it was nice to see more of Barcelona since we haven't really left the old town area that we are in.  Some of the highlights were the Olympic Stadium, Montjuic castle and fountain, and Avenue Diagonal.  We also walked by some houses designed by Gaudi and some other guy on the Block of Discord which were interesting.  Max describes Gaudi's work as melted - I'd have to agree.  Definitely a unique style.

Olympic Stadium

A bullfighting stadium that has been turned into a mall

fun at the playground
Casa Milo,,, obviously another of Guadi's works

Casa Batlo 

A building by another architect on the Block of Discord

Placa de Catalunya

Playing with the pigeons

Yesterday I forgot to mention that Zach asked, "Where is the fun?".  Later in the day he saw a school with kids on the playground and said, "Oh, there is the fun!".

We walked through Las Ramblas on the way back to the apartment.  This neighborhood has a reputation for pickpockets.  So the boys were very interested in that and talked constantly about what they would do if they saw someone being pickpocketed and then they tested my pockets - over and over again.  

kronut (croissant donut)

Also on the way back we spent more time in the Gothic section which is my favorite.  

Extremely public bathroom!
Max's Post - Spain is my favorite country so far because the pastries are good, everything we need is on our street, and our apartment is really nice.  My favorite thing was the taco place, where I had fajitas for the first time.  My favorite dessert was the chocolate gelato.    The Sagrada Familia is really big and they've been building it for more than 100 years!  I also had to watch Dad's pockets wherever we went so that he wouldn't get pick pocketed.
Jacob's Post - The paintings in the apartment are weird.  They look like someone drew an amazing picture and then messed up all the colors or something.  Dad needs to start wearing his money belt or he's going to get pick pocketed one of these days.

We waited until later (like 7:00pm) to get dinner tonight which seemed to open up some better dinner options.  A lot of the restaurants don't open until 8.  Kyrie and I both liked the tapas tonight.

Day 15 - Montjuic

Today we took the second day of our bus tour and stopped off on Montjuic which is a mountain that overlooks Barcelona.  Our first stop was the Castell which protected Barcelona for hundreds of years.

The bus tour has two routes, but we did the same route and made different stops than yesterday.

From the mountain we had an excellent view of the city.  Sagrada Familia is the cathedral in the center.
We took a cable car to the top of the mountain.

A cannon on the outermost wall of the castle.

The moat is rather fancy these days. (Although, they are currently replanting.)
After the drawbridge is a steep incline into the castle.

Storming the castle!

The castle is currently in a state of transition having recently been taken over by the city council.  Most of the castle is empty and some used for storage.  There is only a small area discussing the history of the castle at this time and most of it was only in Spanish so I had to look up the historical information online. 

The castle was rebuilt several times, each time getting larger and stronger.  Most recently it was built in the late 1700's and at that time it had 120 cannons.  During the Spanish civil war both sides controlled the castle at different times.  The president of the Catalonia was executed there in 1940.

We took a long walk back down part of the mountain until we got to the Olympic stadium from 1992.

Although it looks large in this picture, the stadium seemed smaller than I expected.  I'm fairly certain that NFL stadiums are as large as this.  This stadium was originally built for the Peoples Olympiad in 1936 which was a protest event to the Olympics which were held in Berlin during the Nazi regime.  However, the Spanish Civil War broke out and the Peoples Olympiad never occurred.

Next we visited El Poble Espanyol - a sort of Spanish cultural center that displays the unique architecture, art, and food from the different regions of Spain.  It was sort of interesting, but we were all a little too worn out to really appreciate this place.

We headed back to the hotel for siesta time.

The Spanish Arc de Triomf

This arc was built for a World's Fair in the 1800's.  The Poble de Espanya was built for a more recent fair like that.  Wish they still had world's fairs!  Seems like the coolest stuff was built for those fairs.

We had our best dinner in Barcelona tonight at Morelia.

Tomorrow we board our cruise ship to sail back to America.  We've really enjoyed our time in Spain.  It didn't have as much to see or do as Paris did, but I would say it was much easier and more relaxed. Also, I would highly recommend this apartment to anyone visiting Barcelona.  The owner has several apartments in the El Born neighborhood.  His website is go2barcelona.com or can be booked through airbnb.com.

We are really looking forward to our cruise!  This has been a lot of fun, but very hectic.  We are looking forward to a relaxing for 11 days!  I won't be able to upload my updates while on board, but I will post when we return!

I think there is a lot to do in Barcelona. The difference is, I didn't keep insisting everyone get up early and pack the day full of activities like I did at the start of our trip because we were all worn out. There is much more to see, and next time we will definitely take a day trip to Montserrat. 

This has been an incredible journey and it's awesome that we have planned a vacation from our vacation for once.  We are SO ready to relax and enjoy a long Disney cruise with mostly sea days! And it should eliminate jag lag since we will slowly gain our hours back on our journey instead of all at once.  Adios!

Click here for part 4!

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