Sunday, August 05, 2007

Barcelona Trip

I got to go to Barcelona for a few days this month, mostly to attend a conference on remote sensing (yawn...), but luckily, I got to spend a few extra days there. Surprisingly, I actually took pictures this time, so I'll put a few on here.

I went with my labmate, N. We stayed at a nice-ish hotel in a newer part of town called "Forum", which had a nice view of... well what I'll politely describe as a ghetto. Still, it was within walking distance of the conference.

Near the hotel was this shopping mall, where we went for lunch. There was this little sand sculpture exhibit in the middle, with models of various famous buildings in town.

The mall itself was kinda interesting, first off, even though nobody who worked there spoke any English, the music played was mostly 80s pop (think Cyndi Lauper). The only way to get drinking water was to buy (expensive) bottled water, water fountains and getting a glass of water with a meal seems to be unheard of. Lucky for me, my Spanish phrasebook helped me out of several situations. Oddly, the one guy at the mall who spoke English was from Pakistan!

All the places to see in Barcelona are quite far off, so we took the city bus to get to the more interesting spots. The hub of most activity is in Plaça de Catalunya, which is also the main bus stop and metro station.

From here, we walked through Las Ramblas, which is a street full of restaurants of all descriptions, with shacks on the street selling all sorts of trinkets. The most fun part, though, are the street performers, most of whom were human statues.

Atlas Shrugged?

In this case, Atlas actually did shrug.

Tree Man

The tree-woman, er, man, er... you figure it out.


I liked this guy the best, he'd sit motionless in his box, but occasionally turn and glare at someone walking by. Then there was this one time he stared right at me...


...and my camera had to go on the fritz. :-/ This is the best I could do with The Gimp.

Las Ramblas ends by the sea, at the monument to Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus

Nearby was the Museu Marítim de Barcelona, built into one of the ancient shipyards from which ships sailed to the Americas, and around the world. One of the more interesting exhibits was a full-scale replica of one of the early Spanish galley ships (think Ben Hur...).


We took one of the organized bus tours of the city, which made for some interesting photo ops, given that the buildings in the old town were just so... purdy!

Buildings from the bus - 1 Buildings from the bus - 2

One of the stops along the way was the famous Sagrada Família, which is the unfinished basilica designed by Gaudí, the architect responsible for much of Barcelona's unique buildings.

Sagrada Familia

The church has been under construction for over 100 years now. Apparently, this was by design, and the intended completion date is 2026. Interestingly, the sculptures on one side (the older face) depict one large scene, while the newer ones on the opposite side (depicting the crucifixion) are more like sculptures found on Indian temples, in that they tell a complete story rather than just one scene.

Sagrada Familia

Much of the insides were under construction, so there wasn't much to see. Next up on the bus tour was a ride to Tibidabo, one of the hills overlooking Barcelona. To get there, we had to board this quaint little tram, called Tramvia Blau.

Tramvia Blau

That took us half-way up the hill where there's a cable-driven tram up the steep hill face to get to the top. The paint-job is hard to miss... :-)


Right at the top, there's a small chapel, the Templo Expiatorio de Espana.

Templo Expiatorio de Espana

There are some spectacular views of Barcelona from up here, of the harbour and the rest of the city.

BCN from up high

One of the more unusual stops we made were to a science musem called Cosmocaixa (hey, the conference folks gave us free tickets!) This place was a lot like a scaled-up version of Vishweshwaraya museum in Bangalore, with the push-button experiments and everything :) I even got a pic with Einstein, wearing a T-shirt with the speed of light on it :)

With Einstein!

(I think I have Chandler's affliction - I absolutely cannot smile for a photo!)

The Bus tour hands out earphones you can use to listen to a commentary. Here's what happens to them:

Bus Stop

We also visited the aquarium, the zoo and wandered around a bit in the Parc de la Ciutadella. One of the park's prominent features is the Cascada, with a large waterfall.

The Cascada

The food was great, although I have a sinking feeling that we didn't really get to have many of the local dishes since we didn't really have any locals to help us. The best local dish I tried was Paella, although mine wasn't entirely authentic since it didn't have any seafood (I was playing it safe). Then there was Jamón ibérico, or Spanish cured ham, which on first sight looks, um, quite unappetizing. The taste, though, is quite amazing.

The ice-cream was really good as well... it's less sweet than American ice-cream, it's at just the right level of sugar. The flavours are quite varied too, with Hazelnut and Tiramisu being my favourites.

Well anyway, after all of that, I'm back in Fort Collins and back to the grind, screaming "it's too SOOON!" I must say, though, that I caught myself almost saying "Gracias" to the person at the local McDonalds...


Grafxgurl said...

im soooooooooo jealous.
*weep. wring hands *

Jim said...

Awww... well, you could go too, you know?

Carlos said...

You are really lucky. I always dreamed to visit Barcelona. To see beautiful beaches, Gaudi's masterpieces, taste traditional cuisine and learn flamenco dance. And my dream is becoming true, I bought tickets and choosing accommodation from many Barcelona hotels. I want to find something close to beach or in historical center. That's why I'm interesting in everything about Barcelona and Spain. I really enjoyed reading your blog.

Jim said...

Congrats, Carlos, your dream is coming true at last! About the accommodation, even if you don't find a place close to the historic center, you can always use the city bus/metro service to get around, it's quite extensive and fast. You can get a 2-day, 3-day or 1-week unlimited travel pass. Have fun there!

Marcelas said...

Nice blog. I also have been to Barcelona. The whole city is very nice, full of tourist attractions, surrounded by artistic structures and buildings, crowded by people of all over the world. We went to many many tourist spots like La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia, FC Barcelona Stadium, Guell Park, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya with its music fountain, Barceloneta Beach etc. Almost whole of Barcelona is 'made by' one architect named Gaudi. His inspiration of shapes from the nature made him put all his ideas into buildings, making almost the whole Barcelona looks amazing.

Jim said...

Thanks for the comments, Marcelas!