Monday, 26 July 2010


Ah, Barcelona. Definitely one of my favourite cities in the whole world (and I've visited a few by now). WCCI took place there this year (yes, another conference!), and as usual, I got a couple of extra days before and after the conference, to be able to do some visiting and relaxing.

I'm not a big fan of hotels, and given the usual price of conference hotels, I decided to stay in a hostel instead. It was a great choice; the hostel had a great atmosphere, and I made some cool friends while staying there, especially Kaori, my new Japanese friend, and Flic, the cool Australian traveller.
The first day was very hard; given that my flight was at 0640, I ended up not sleeping the night before, so by the time I got to Barcelona I was so tired, I had my first Spanish siesta! (thankfully the only one)
I still had time in the evening to go for a nice walk in the Gothic quarter, all the way down to Barceloneta and Roy Lichenstein's Barcelona Head sculpture.

I also went to L'Aquàrium, famous for its tunnel underwater, from which you can look up at all the sharks. Wasn't terribly impressed. In the end, I just sat by La Rambla de Mar, watching the reflections of the setting sun in the surrounding buildings; even the World Trade Center became interesting when painted by the golden sunlight.

In the evening I found a small restaurant in the Port Vell area, ate a tourist trap ready-made paella, and then walked all the way back to the hostel. It was really central, being just besides Casa Battló, which I couldn't resist shooting with the night illumination.

Saturday was a busy day. I began by visiting Casa Battló; 17.50€ might seem a hefty price to pay, but I think it was well worth it; I spent over two hours exploring all the rooms, apartments, garden, roof terrace, and all the amazing details coming out of the genius of Gaudí. Definitely my favourite of his conceptions.

I wanted to carry on the Gaudí theme for the day, and having previously seen Park Güell, I made my way to La Pedrera, his famous apartment block. No luck, the queue was immense, under the beating sun; instead I had some cheap pasta in the lovely Rambla de Catalunya, and made my way to Palau del Baró Quadras, where Casa Asia is also located. The building itself was really nice, with all the marble and other noble materials keeping it quite cool. It regularly hosts temporary expositions, this time it was a rather eye-opening one about North Korea, which I really enjoyed exploring. The view from the rooftop is also quite nice.

I also tried to go to La Sagrada Familia, but the queue there was just unbelievable, so instead I took the metro to the last station of a line, then the tram all the way up a steep hill, and finally the funicular. Destination? Tibidabo, the tallest hill overlooking Barcelona (512m). Up there there's a really cool (and old) amusement park, and the whole area feels like a travel back in time. I really enjoyed sitting down, ordering some nachos and a caña, and just enjoy the buzz and the view over Barcelona, while reading a book.

I also went up the Temple Del Sagrat Cor, which is basically two churches, one on top of the other. I took the lift to the top and then climbed the tower; the views from the top were stunning.

Back in the hostel, there was a night out organised, like every single day, they were tireless to make us have some fun. My rubber arm got twisted, and on I went, with a big bunch of foreign travellers. And to my surprise and deception, the first stop was... an Irish Pub!! It's a curse; every time I go abroad, I end up in one, against my own will (nothing against Irish pubs, but I have plenty of those at home!). Anyway, that was followed by a disco, and then a long after party at the hostel, up to 0730! Sunday was therefore spent just recovering sleep, eating in a terrace, reading a book, and in the evening I went for the conference reception.

Not many occasions to do some visiting once the conference began, but some excellent dinners with great food, and great nights out (Barcelona really is a great party place!). One of those was epic. We started with a few tapas, and then went on the hunt for a nice restaurant in the Gothic quarter; after a few glasses of wine in a tiny tavern (owned by a Scottish lady!), we found the Cafè de l'Acadèmia, whose owner setup a private table just for us down in the cellar. We had a fantastic meal, and great fun, surrounded by thousands of expensive bottles! We followed that with a few bars in the centre, such as the Sugar bar, with its pillows and red lights everywhere, and the Club Rosa, with its Gothic clientele. We ended up at the Pipa Club, a sneaky bar in a pipe smokers club, opened until late; ring the bell, go up to the first floor, and enter a whole new world! Brilliant night out with great company.

Wednesday evening the conference banquet took place, so I went there by tram and metro, to be able to go appreciate the cucumber-shaped Torre Agbar (which is actually pretty funky looking, well worth the detour).

The banquet took place at the Plaça de les Cascades, and after it was over, we were able to appreciate the light and music show of La Font Màgica. Although currently under repair, it was still quite magical.

Friday I took the morning off, and finally (after quite a few visits to Barcelona) went to see La Sagrada Famìlia with Niamh. Even though we were there at 1000, we still had to queue for about an hour. It is a really impressive site, though, no wonder it's Spain's most visited monument. All the details on the outside are impressive (and there's far too many to show here), and the inside is also breathtaking, despite the many years still left for it to be finished. We gave up on going up the (only) elevator to the top though, after realising we'd be waiting for over 45min!... Sometimes it's painful to be a tourist.

After a light meal by the Arc de Triomf, we went for a walk in the Parc de la Ciutadella, where we could appreciate some of the buildings, the curious mammoth sculpture, and above all the impressive Cascada built 130 years ago by Josep Fontsère.

Saturday was my last full day in Barcelona, so I went tourist mad. I started by going to see the lovely Esglèsia de Santa Maria del Mar, prime example of Catalan Gothic, which has an impressive sense of space inside.

I then went for a walk along the beach, before taking the Transbordador Aeri from the beach all the way up to Montjuic, followed by a ride on the telefèric, to the Castell de Montjuïc. The views of the beach front down below were really nice. I leisurely walked down the hill, enjoying the lovely gardens that populate the area, and the really nice views of the city from those gardens.

After lunch I went to see the Fundació Joan Miró, just to double check that I really don't like his art at all (it's confirmed!! I really don't get it), and then went for a walk around L'Anella Olímpica & Estadi Olímpic; the first time I was there was just before the Olympic games (all the way back to 1991 with my sister), it was nice to see the site again.

I finished a heavily loaded day with a flash visit to the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, which deserved much more than the single hour I spent there.

That was it, really. That night we had another great night out in town with James and Niamh, and the next day I just got lost one last time wandering the Gothic quarter, and finished the day on the beach, before getting my late flight back to Dublin. I am definitely going to go back to Barcelona again and again.

(Rambla de Mar from high above)


InêsN said...

Ler estes relatos aqui no trabalho...é dose! :)

Também estou desejosa de regressar a barcelona...é uma cidade que não me importo de visitar e visitar e visitar! :)

obrigada por este tour!

DoCeu said...

Bem, parece que tenho que ir fazer uma revisão da matéria... (A última visita já foi há 11 anos!)

Estou contigo e com a tua luta quanto ao Mirò... ... ...

E também estou de acordo quando à lindíssima Santa Maria del Mar. É muito menos falada do que a Catedral (gótica) e, quanto a mim, muito mais bonita!

By the way: nice banner! (-:

JoaoN said...

Obrigado pelo "regresso" a Barcelona. No meu caso também já lá vão quase 11 anos!

Adorei os postais! :D

E parem lá de dizer mal do meu amigo Miró, a Fundação é espectacular! Ninguém desenha uma estrela-asterisco como ele! :)

Миша said...

Obrigado eu, Inês, que foste tu quem lá me levou a primeira vez!
Não me convences quanto ao Miró, João, acho que foi desta que perdi completamente a fé.
Céu, também eu a achei muito mais bonita, é mesmo um espetáculo por dentro!

Master 2 Phonétique said...

Miguel , adorei esse seu blog! vou fazer um pra mim também com as viagens que ja fizemos! Como está vc por aí? abraços

Diana said...

Lovely post! The picture of Casa Battló by night is enchanting. Torre Abgar, on the contrary, looks too much like a suppository ;)

Seattle said...

Wow, great post.. really extensive, you did so much! I really with I had the chance to go up to Tibidabo when I was there.. looks so nice. I definitely want to go back soon!