My Trips: Barcelona 2005

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Girona, flying back to Newquay

I try the breakfast at the hostel. The buffet selection is a classic Spanish breakfast of breads, cheeses, hams, chorizo, cereals, juices and coffee. This suits me fine. Whilst I am eating a mass of kids staying at the hostel descend on the dinning room.

I have been a bit disappointed staying at the hostel. Although reasonable new the hostel is in bad condition. It isn’t a good place to meet people either.

I wander through the streets of the told town again. The Arab baths are not open until 10:00, so I wander over to the gardens. I walk and find what I think are the gardens, but am disappointed with them. On my return to the town I find the real gardens. Although smaller than I had imagined, the canopy of the trees offers shade from the already hot sun. Several pathways have been cut into the heavily wooded area. There are a number of sports facilities in the park. One of these buildings suggests that it was connected with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. A small version of the Olympic rings hang on the flag posts, and it is called Olympic Girona. The building does not suggest its purpose though.

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Girona, Figueres and the Salvador Dali Museum, Catalunya, Spain

I wake up at 07:30. It was a much cooler night. I had to shut the windows. I pack and make my way to the bus station. I catch the bus to Girona. My flight home is from Girona airport. Before seeing the town and flying home, I will take a day trip to Figueres, to see the Salvador Dali Museum.

Girona is a pleasant city, calmer than Barcelona. The temperature is 26 degrees, much cooler. I get to the tourist information office and get a map. I make my way to the youth hostel. On entry I see a sign saying they are full. I ask and the lady says they have one more dorm bed, it seems I am lucky. I leave my bag in the cupboard, and head back to the train station. I buy a train ticket to Figueres, which coasts €2.55. Whilst the ticket machine gives some instructions in English, the tariffs are unclear. I ask a cute girl at the tourist information at the station, but she does not know the difference in the tariffs. I opt for the express (blue) button on the machine, and then the top option, assuming this is a full adult single fare. The price suggests so.
I have a coffee and a pastry at the café. I had my typical fruit and sesame biscuit breakfast on the bus to Girona this morning.

The train leaves platform (via) 2 at 10:36, 2 minutes late. I see an English speaking couple with mountains of bags, including what looks like a laptop in a hard case. I can’t imagine backpacking with so much stuff, or a laptop. I guess a laptop is ok if you stay in hotels. The view is ok, being a mix of built up areas and countryside. The train is fast, modern and air conditioned. The ticket inspector comes through asking for tickets, and seems happy with mine, so I must have made the correct choice at the ticket machine. I am looking forward to the Dali Museum.

We stop at Flaca. The seats in the express trains have a slide-able back part, so they can face in either direction. It’s a clever idea. They also tell you the name of the next stop. The trains in the UK are becoming very dated now, in comparison.

My stay in Tossa was good value. Maybe €20 per day, excluding my €13 ferry ride, which was paid for my picnicking, and not eating at restaurants. The cash I took out in Tossa is almost untouched. [It later turns out that my credit card was copied in Tossa, but the bank cancelled it, so it was OK in the end.]

Figueres is an old town that offers little in the way of attractions, with one exception. The Salvador Dali Museum, which is real treat for anyone with an interest in the Spaniards art. Dali was born in Figueres, and although he lived for many years in the USA and France, he also lived nearby on the coast. His decision to build the museum in his birth town secured its fortune and a share in the tourist income. The building is full of delights, but you do find yourself walking back on yourself on more than one occasion. The sculptures are as impressive as the paintings. Many of Dali’s famous paintings are housed in the museum. I found it interesting that some of my favourites where postcard size, and yet others where 20m square. There are many sketches and non-abstract paintings in the galleries, showing his obvious “regular” artistic skills. Upstairs can also be found some of Dali’s collections of other artists work. I particularly like the painting of an artist painting a subject in front of a mirror. A sort of abstract self-portrait.

I walk Figueres for an hour after, killing time before the next train back to Girona. It is a town with a series of charming shady squares and a small rambla. I catch the 14:30 train back to Girona. It is 36 degrees.

In Girona, I go back to the youth hostel and check in. I have to buy a stamp to start YHI membership. I rent sheets, the total for a dorm bed is €25. The hostel is an YHI hostel and has strict rules. Quite different to the hostel in Barcelona, which was all about fun. There is no curfew, but there is a night staff. The price includes breakfast. The hostel also offers half-board and full-board. The hostel is very lively, with many young people. I have read that the hostel provides accommodation to the students of Girona. This seems to be the case, and there are loads of kids here. In the reception there is a sign stating that they are full, however my five bed dorm room is empty? A German man behind me in reception comes into the dorm shortly after me. It occurs to me that Girona is not regular backpacker territory. The last few days have taught me quite a bit about where to go and not to go to meet backpackers.

I take a walk amongst the buildings of the old town. The Cathedral is impressive, as are many of the other surrounding buildings. Of particular note are the various gardens and the tree lined entrances to the buildings. Not being catholic, or religious, I find the plants and trees of more interest than the buildings themselves. The Arab Baths are closing by the time I get there (18:55). I will return tomorrow. I walk along the top of the high town walls, which mark the boundary of the medieval city. The views are good. The walk takes me to the south of the city. I walk amongst the people and buildings of the newer city. The pace is much more frantic than the ancient part of town I have come from. I buy some supplies at the supermarket.

I walk back to the old town. The cash machine refuses to give me any cash [I later find out my credit card was copied, and the bank terminated it.] I return to the hostel and grab my other bank card, and then get some cash. I walk for a long time, around the streets of the old and new towns. I have reserved too much time for Girona, and find myself with little to do. There is a good contrast between locals and tourists. I catch up with my journal at a café. Tomorrow I will walk to the park, before catching my bus to the airport to return home.

In the evening I get a falafel (€3) from the kebab shop next to the youth hostel. It is excellent. Make with great produce and great care. I then get a beer from a café. I love the Mediterranean street life, with late night snacking. I enjoy the way I can grab a beer at a café, occupy the table on my own and take my time. People always seem happy and chatty, eating and drinking into the night. You almost never see a drunk Spaniard though.

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Tossa de Mar, a ferry ride to Sant Feliu de Guixols, Catalunya, Spain

I wake early and wake around the town whilst eating breakfast. I walk over to the beach. It is not possible to walk very far, as the bay comes to a rocky end and there is nowhere to walk. I enjoy a coffee at the beach bar, which is becoming a favourite.

I decide to take a ferry ride, as there are many good destinations. I pack a bag and buy a ticket to Sant Feliu de Guixols (€13). The 40 minute trip is pleasant with some great scenery. The weather is still great. There are lots of apartments on this part of the coastline. The mountains paint a lovely backdrop to the coast.

The item of interest in the town of Sant Feliu de Guixols is an arch. The arch once was part of a monastery, which was very important to Spanish history. Buildings are being erected near the arch and I can’t help but think that one day the arch will be lost amongst someone’s apartment.

I write my journal in the shade, on a hill, whilst watching a crew tug a concrete marine structure into place in the harbour. I stay for 2 hours before catching the ferry back to Tossa.

I spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach, swimming and sunbathing. That evening I picnic on the beach. I walk the town, enjoy an ice cream, and retire to bed.

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Tossa de Mar, Catalunya, Spain

I leave the hostel and catch the metro to the northern bus station. I wait 30 minutes for a bus to Tossa de Mar. It costs €8 and takes 1:15 hours. The bus goes through Lloret de Mar which is very touristy.

Tossa is busy with tourists but the bus stops right next to the Tourist Information office and I get a useful map of Pensions in the area. I find a room at the Pension More within 30 minutes. €13 for a night, and I pay for 2 nights. The landlady doesn’t speak English but her husband does and we chat briefly about the Tour de France which he is watching on his TV.

I have come to Tossa as the beach and coves are very nice and there is an ancient monastery here, which is very much intact. There are lots of tourist bars here which I avoid. I have a beer at the bar on the beach. I take a swim in the sea which is very warm. I take a walk around the old village. I buy some picnic things and go to the smaller beach around the bay. I sit in the sun and enjoy the food and beer.
It is strange not having any company after meeting so many people in Barcelona. Without youth hostels or a common area in the hotel it is difficult meeting fellow travellers. I search out a bar which is inviting. I don’t find one and instead watch the local volley ball tournament on the beach, which proves to be very exciting.

Most of the bars have not got going yet. I intend to get up early though and he off to bed.

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Barcelona day 4 – more sights

I walk around the large park near the beach. I spend a few more hours at the beach.

I go to the Aquarium which is pretty good. I think it is over priced at about €12.

I go the Picasso museum which is excellent. I particularly like the porcelain plates he decorated.

I meet a nice couple, an Irish guy and a Kiwi woman. They have just come from France and said Paris was amazing. This has got me curious of a visit.

I meet a Finnish couple called Pina and Kelle. We go out for dinner but the excellent Tapas bar is shut and we go to another, which is not so good.

I have done what I wanted to in Barcelona and decide to move on to Tosa de Mar.

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Barcelona day 3 – the beaches

I get up late and head down to the beaches. They are beautiful for being so close to a city. It is busy but easy to find a spot. I have walked past the various marinas which have a lot of boats, and various stalls selling things.

Gabriel and I have lunch at the excellent Tapas bar near the hostel. I love it, and am now a huge fan of Tapas.

In the evening I go to Gaudi’s Park Guell. I am surprised by the slum like area that it is in. The park is beautiful and worth the effort of getting here. I have a good walk around. The buildings at the bottom are excellent. It is worth entering the park from the top and walking down.

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Barcelona day 2 – La Sagrada Familia

I get up early and head out to see the sights. Christopher and Gabriel have already done the obvious sights, which I will see today, so we agree to meet at the Olympic village later.

I head out. I pass the Barcelona Cathedral, the Barcelona Arc de Triomphe and catch the Metro to La Sagrada Familia. It is quite a sight. I decide to go in. It is not so impressive inside. I climb the towers, which is slow going. The climb reminds me of the Duomo in Florence. I walk back through the city, stopping at other Galdi buildings. I don’t go inside these houses though. I grab a snack.

I meet up with Christopher and Gabriel at the gates near the Olympic village. We walk around the various buildings. The Olympic village is a bit of a disappointment. The stadium is smaller than I expected and starting to crumble a bit.

We walk a long way through the gardens and up to the castle. The views are excellent from the castle. One is able to see the entire city. We are all exhausted and we are happy when we find a metro stop that gets us back to the Rambla with minimal walking.

We have a few beers in the evening.

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Newquay to Barcelona

Jess drops me at Newquay airport and I catch the 10am flight to Stanstead. I wait a few hours and then catch the Ryanair flight to Barcelona. Well the plane actually goes to Girona airport, and I catch a bus into Barcelona. The bus takes 1.5 hours and costs €7. I leave the bus station and find the Metro. I get off at the stop right by the Rambla. My map doesn’t have the street I am after, so I buy a big map of Barcelona. I find the street and walk down until I find the hostel.

The hostel is a flat in a beautiful gothic building. The building is in the Latin Quarter, which takes a minute to get used to. It is old and dirty, which is a surprise at first. I soon warm to the area though, preferring it over most parts of Barcelona. The hostel is basic but well run. My rooms mates are Christopher from Brazil, Gabriel from Singapore (via Blackpool), Mat from Australia and a girl from Canada who can’t understand me!

I wander around the Latin Quarter and the Rambla. The weather is hot, 30 degrees, but not very humid.

I have a few beers with Gabriel and sleep. I will see the sights tomorrow.