Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gaudi is really gaudy

This morning, we decided to sleep in a bit and we met for breakfast at 9 AM.   Then it was off to find the Metro station to journey to La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Gaudi.  Who would have thought that the line would be around the block on Saturday morning?  Luckily, it moved very fast!
Kristina went to get the audio tour kit, while the rest of us found the rest room.  We went inside and Kristina relayed info to us from the recording.  It is an awesome cathedral.  We should plan to come back when it is completed.  They have been working on it for over 100 years. 
One can take an elevator up into one of the spires (for a small additional fee) so we decided to do that.  While we were standing in the Disneyeske queue at the 60 minute wait sign, a lady who works at the Cathedral came up and said that this line was too long and we could go to the other spire for a much shorter wait time.  She gave those of us at the end of the line instruction on how to go down stairs, cut through the museum and then up and enter the other side to find the lift.  A group of us took off and raced over there to find that the line was at the 20 minute sign.  Wow.  Much better wait time.
Just before we boarded the elevator, there was a list of cautions.  No one who suffered from problems, such as heart problems, vertigo, claustrophobia, asthma and some other things, should not attempt this, as you have to walk down a narrow winding staircase to come down.  The elevator only takes you UP.  You have to walk down.  At that point Danielle decided that she would wait for us and took the audio kit from Kristina.  I decided that my asthma was not THAT bad, so I went.  Only four people are allowed in the elevator at one time, along with the operator.  Kristina asked the elevator operator if there was any way we could get lost and she laughed and said no.  Kristina asked how many steps and she said 317.  Kristina said that was a piece of cake compared to the Basilica in Rome that has over 700 steps. 
We exited the elevator, crossed over the “bridge” and started down the steps.  They were quite narrow and winding, but there were open areas all along the way, so light and air came in.  There were several “stopping” points along the way, where one could step aside for a view and let anyone who wished to pass go by.  When we got lower into what looked to be an older part, there was a ton of graffiti.  Who puts graffiti in a church? 
We exited the little doorway at the bottom and I discovered that my legs were very shaky.  I had been fine coming down, but once down, phew, I needed to sit a spell.  We went outside and sat for a bit for me to recover.  Then we set off to find Danielle.
It was astounding the number of tourists in this area.  There were thousands in the cathedral and surrounding grounds.  We located Danielle and exited to walk to the park.  We showed our map to the guy in the tourist information booth and he told us how to find the correct road.  We went around the cathedral and headed out.  It was a long walk, uphill. 
We trudged along and decided to stop for lunch just before we reached the end of the street.  Danielle had a pizza; I had a potato frittata; Lori had tomatoes and bread, which she spit with Kristina who also had some olives.  We ordered a pitcher of sangria so we could sample “Barcelona sangria” so as to be able to compare it to sangrias in other cities.  For dessert, three of us tried a local specialty which was more or less cold vanilla pudding with carmelized sugar on top.  It was very good.
We trudged the rest of the way up to the end of the street to discover the hospital designed by Gaudi.  We thought that we were going to the park.  Huh?  We consulted a map and it looked like the park was back, a lot closer to the cathedral than the 8 or 10 blocks that we had just walked.  We debated what we should do when Kristina said, “Hail a taxi and have him drive us there?”  An available taxi presented itself moments later and we jumped in and he drove us a looooong way and up some very steep hills, to the park with all of the Gaudi buildings.  Oh my gosh!!  We would never have made it up those hills!!
We walked up some stairs and looked around.  There were “merchants” all over the place selling goods, in a covered area.  Jewelry, scarves (very popular in Spain), fans, etc.  We ignored them and looked around.  There was another set of steps going up, so we went up to see what we could see.  There was a large open area with more “merchants” and lots of people sitting about enjoying the sunny day.  This was on top of the covered area where we had been before.  One couple was completely grey and were posing as statues of a bride and groom.  In front of them was a box for money that said (in English) “for the wedding”.  Every time someone put money in their box, they bowed and changed their pose.
As we started to head back down, the “merchants” began quickly picking up their stuff.  We thought, “Oh, it must be closing time for the ‘flea market’”.  As we got to the lower level, several of them were gone, but others were still there.  We sat down to discuss what we wanted to do next, when someone from the upper level leaned over the edge and yelled something.  Oh man, the merchants grabbed the four corners of the blankets they had their displays on and ran!!  I said to Lori, “How do you say, ‘cheese it, the cops!’ in Spanish?”  That appeared to be the situation.  After a bit, they came back out of the woodwork and started setting up shop again. 
We finally had to ask where the museum was, as there was no signage at all.  We had to go half way up the stairs (we’d just come down) and then turn off to the right and go to the pink house.  We did and then had to wait to be allowed to enter.  There was a lot of furniture and some models by Gaudi.
We left the park and walked DOWN this very steep hill to find the Metro stop.  The girl at the gift shop said, “Ten minutes walk to the Metro”.  Well, let me tell you, Spanish people walk a LOT faster than American people.  We finally (Thank you God) arrived at the Metro station.  A few stops to our stop and we were back on familiar ground and heading for the hotel.
After a small rest (with my feet up) Kristina, Lori and I headed back out to locate the magical musical fountain.  We consulted several maps and figured out the Metro stop closest to where we wanted to go.  We popped onto the Metro and off at our stop.  We went up a few blocks, through a very residential area with absolutely NO tourist and a lot of working class type people, to the street that we needed.  I was thinking, “Oh dear, I am not sure that I want to walk back this way after dark.”  We located that fountain and hundreds of tourists sitting or standing about, waiting for the show.
Kristina spotted a good location and we went to sit and wait for the show to start.  The information I had said it was from 7 PM until 8:30 PM.  We arrived about 7:45 and the fountain was dry.  ???
We sat for a bit and just about 7:55 a couple of young ladies stopped and said something to us in Spanish.  I said, “We don’t understand.” And she switched to English.  “They just told us that the fountain is broken and there won’t be a show.”  Well that certainly explained the lack of water in the fountain.  We decided to leave and see if we could find a different Metro stop.  We were on a very busy boulevard, so we were sure there would be one.  We located a map showing Metro stops and went to where we thought it was.  Nope.  We looked around and there were lots of people, but no Metro stop.  Kristina asked a man, “Metro?” and he stopped and told us to go to the other side of the building and then left and down the block.  We were at the wrong end of the block.  Their maps are weird, I tell you!!  I don’t know how anyone figures them out.
He was right and we found the Metro.  We got on and headed to our hotel.  When we came up from the Metro we were totally turned around.  We started to head in one direction but decided that none of those stores look familiar, so we turned around.  When we did that, we spotted some stores mid-block across the street that we recognized.  Phew, thus reassured, we knew which way to go.
Once we reached the street where all of the restaurants were in the middle, we started looking for a new place to try.  We walked down several blocks and finally decided on one.  I had an “American” hamburger; Kristina and Lori ordered paella.  My hamburger was with bacon and cheese and grilled onions, open face on a slice of crusty bread.  Very good, but very NOT like a typical hamburger in the US.  I had wanted to see what they considered an American hamburger.  Lori and Kristina wanted to sample the paella here, so they could compare it to that found in other cities.  I had coconut ice cream that was awesome for dessert.  They had chocolate and whiskey ice cream.
We stopped at a church on the way home but could not figure out the sign on the door.  Kristina wrote it down and we consulted the front desk clerk when we arrived at the hotel.  He told her which one was for Sunday services.
We headed back to our rooms to organize our suitcases for the flight to Seville tomorrow.  This was our last night in Barcelona and we are sad to leave.  We were just getting so we could figure out the Metro system. 
Off to another city and more adventures. 

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to see what Seville brings! Did you find the old Jewish section of town where the buildings were added on and start to converge over the little streets? Paella - makes my mouth water! I am sending you an email about puppies - everything is good. A BEAUTIFUL day in southwestern lower Michigan, I hope you aren't missing ALL of Indian summer.