Day 3: Barcelona

We slept in a bit this morning, well deserved for sure.  First order of business was breakfast and coffee, so we wandered down to El Fornet coffee shop (which Tommy had recommended) and had a couple of croissants and cafe con leche.  This would turn out to be our standard breakfast.  As we hadn’t seen too much of Barcelona at this point (given we’d spent the better part of the day before in an unusually small country), we set off to see our first Gaudi structures.  And yes, they are tacky.  We started with Casa Mila, which looked like it had been designed by someone (Gaudi) on LSD.  Next we walked a few blocks down the main drag and saw a few more of his startling designs, mostly wondering how scary it must have been to live inside this guy’s head.

A main sight in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, a giant church Gaudi designed that is still in the process of being built 120 years after it started.  That is typical of a Spanish timeframe.  We just laid eyes on it (the line was too long to wait to get inside, and, quite frankly, we weren’t all that interested).  It’s huge in an impressively tacky way.  Cross it off the list, we saw it.

La Sagrada Familia in its never-ending state of construction

Next we turned our attention to heading up to Montjuic, or, ¨”Mount Jew.”  After a quick ride on the Metro and a free transfer to the funicular, we wound up on another one of Barcelona’s so-called mountains.  But this one was sweet – it houses the Olympic Stadium that was used for the ´92 games.  After a quick stop to take a few pictures of the view (and this time we could tell what we were looking at), we walked up a slight hill about 200 meters to the Olympic Stadium.  It is free to enter, so who can argue with that?  It felt super small on the inside, and it was hard to imagine all the countries of the world and their delegates fitting inside of it.  I mean, the Romanian gymnasts alone would have filled half of the track.  After eyeballing the field for a few, we went back outside to survey the other Olympic buildings and flag plazas.  A few more pictures later, and we were thirsty – time for cafe con leche (and piña juice, my personal favorite quench while traveling).

Next it was time to beat feet, as we’d told Tommy we’d meet him and his family for lunch.  So a few short Metro rides later we were back in our hood and in front of his building.  He drove us up onto another “mountain” (across from Mount Jew) and we wound up at a kind of restaurant with picnic tables – and only locals.  No “I heart Gaudi” tees here, which was fabulous.  Lunch consisted of roasted chicken, round fries, a bit of salad, and cerveza.  Meanwhile, Tom and Elizabet’s kids ran around and the adults chatted.  However, it was a bit windy and chilly, as the sun had gone behind the clouds.  After lunch we walked up a little hill to a kid’s park, where the chilluns really let loose.  And the adults continued to chat and, well freeze just a little.  Next, we changed things up and went up another little hill to another kid’s park, where the kids ran around like mad.  And the adults continued to chat and freeze.  The kids eventually started to peter out, and just when I was about to lose the feeling in ALL of my limbs, it was suggested we head back into town.  God bless.

Jim and I parted ways with our friends and headed to the train station.  We booked it straight back to the hotel to add more layers before heading out in search of hot chocolate.  We found the quintessential hot chocolate at Cafe and Te, a chain restaurant on a main drag, but it was absolutely nectar of the gods and included a beautifully puffy dose of nata (whipped cream).  Just a slice of Chantilly heaven.  By this time we had thawed out a bit, so we went on our nightly paseo (stroll).  We were good with that after about 20 minutes, so we settled in to dinner at Cerveceria Catalunya, a recommended restaurant of the travel forums and Tommy.  We sat outside and dined on a decent meal of patatas bravas (potatoes with mayo and some sort of sauce that was billed as spicy but was anything but), a veal thing (for Jim), a plate of delicious mushrooms in lots of garlic, and, naturally, small ham and cheese bocadillos (sandwiches).

After dinner we did a little more paseo (we like to do a paseo at all times of the day), then stopped at a bar across the street from our hotel, which turned out to be the German pub in the neighborhood.  Turns out they had over 80 different kinds of beers, so when we sidled up to the bar and ordered dos cervezas, they just looked at us funny and said, “Um, what kind of beer?”  We ordered Estrella and settled in.  While we sat there, a number of people were coming in and out of the back room, and we wondered what the heck was going on back there.  We surmised it was one big fiesta and discoteche (not really), but we happily sat on our stools next to the front door.  ´Cause, after all, like Jim says, you always want to sit by the door in a strange place – never know when you will need to make a quick exit.  True dat.  After a couple of pops, we dragged ourselves across the street and off to bed it was.

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