Thursday, July 28, 2011

Barcelona: Day Eight

I don't think I ever posted a photo of our hotel from the outside - so here it is (above)! It's actually located on the second floor, so let me tell you, it was really fun dragging 50 pounds of luggage up there! But it was a lovely place, clean, and we had sweet wooden window covers that we could open to step out on our teeny tiny balconies. Our room is the balcony on the second floor all the way to the left.
We were accross the street from one of Spain's most famous markets, La Boqueria, so that morning we hopped on over to enjoy the sights and to have breakfast.
I have an endless amount of photos of the market! It almost seemed like a movie set, you know, where everything is so perfect looking that it is almost a caricature of itself. But no, it was all real and it was just so much fun to poke around. Leanne (below) couldn't stop herself from purchasing some of the more exotic looking fruits.

We found a great little restaraunt towards the back of the market and treated ourselves to some more breakfast sandwiches. The servers here asked us a question that we became used to hearing:

Spanish Person: Where are you from?
Us: We're from the U.S.
Spanish Person: No, I mean where are you really from? 
Us: We were born in Costa Rica.
Spanish Person: (with a knowing nod) Ohhh. Yes, I thought so.

I guess they could tell that we (to varying degrees) looked somewhat more ethnic? I think we must have had this type of conversation about a dozen times, no kidding! I also included a photo of Leanne (below) searching for change in her makeshift plastic sandwich bag. While we were careful not to carry huge amount of cash on ourselves, the money belts became a real bother (not to mention sweat catcher) and we began using what we could for wallets. I purchased a small change purse at a museum in Madrid. Leanne, being ever thrifty, stuck with her bag!

The architecture of the buildings in the Gothis Quarter was just lovely. I inlcuded the photo below just to show you some of the pretty ironwork that was all over this city.
Our next stop for the day was the City History Museum of Barcelona. This place was a real treat! We learned about the original founding of the city by the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (Julius Caesar's nephew), who settled Roman legionnaires on the land as payment for their tours of service. The sign below declares the name of the College of Barcin founded by Emporer Augustus near 14 A.D. Now, Barcelona had been settled before this, but it was the Romans who made it in to a city.

After doing some some excavations under Plaza del Rei - historians found the remains of the original Roman city. Barci or Barcin was originally enclosed on all four sides by walls and it comprises what is now called the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

The Roman ruins are about 2 stories under the street and are just fascinating! Pictured below are the remains of some columns to one of the first Christian church built in Barcelona.

Even on the topside, it is possible to see the remains of the orginal Roman fortifications including some Roman aqueducts!
After our tour of the city's underbelly, we strolled around and came upon one of the many pastry shops sprinlked around town. I popped in to have my daily dose of the awesome deliciousness that is the chocolate croissant. Now, I fell in love with these in Paris. I am thinking of proposing marriage to the criossants in Spain. Feast your eyes below, please.
Yes. Yes. That would be melty chocolate on the inside AND on the outside. Goodness gracious.
5 minutes later, this is all that remains.

We made our way to the next museum on our list, the Picasso Museum! We were all excited to see this place, and it did not dissapoint! Again, the demon "no foto!" reared it's ugly head, so I have nothing to show you of the intertior of the museum (which was lovely), but above you can see that the museum is located in a small little street.
We were actually worried that we had gone in the wrong direction, but no, there is no grand entrance to mark the museum. Picasso's paintings are displayed in the remains of a wealthy merchant's home. Pictured above and below, we are posing in  the interior courtyard of the museum. I learned so much about Picasso. Now, I already know he is considered a genious, but I have to say that seeing paintings that would already be considered masterworks completed by Picasso when he was twelve or fourteen, sure put things in to perspective! The other neat connection we learned about was Picasso's love and esteem for Diego Velazquez and his painting Las Meninas (which we saw in Madrid!). He spent many hours in the Prado studying the painting and painted his own cubist versions of the masterwork himself, which were on display at the museum.

I just saw this door while we were walking around, isn't it neat?!
The door above, was the entrance to this darling street. I wish I had taken a little more time with this photo, as it is actually pretty blurred when you expand it to full size.  

Next on our list was a visit to the Chocolate Museum! And sure enough, our ticktes came with little chocolate bars we could enjoy as we walked around.
On the whole, the museum isn't worth more than a half hour or so of your time. But if you skip it, you would miss out on  these kooky all chocolate sculptures! Apparently, the chocolate guild creates these chocolate sculptures to be displayed during Christmas holidays and afterward, they are retired to the museum.
Yes, this chocolate Pieta is life sized!

Our next stop was a visit to Santa Maria del Mar - a cathedral built by the wealthy fishing merchants of Barcelona. The church closes down between 1pm and 4 pm, so we had to wait a few minutes to get in. As you can see we wiled away the time with cat naps and examining photos.

The church is a modest one, compared to Seville's or Toldeo's cathedrals, but I liked the stained glass and how you could actually see its reflections on the stones! Many stained glass windows are almost too thick to actually let the sunshine in.

I am going to take a moment to congratulate myself on purchasing Red Maps yet again for this trip. Easy to read, compact, and wear resistant these maps saved us several times from getting hopelessly lost. I would recommend them to anyone! Picture below, is just a simple street light...that looks like art. Sigh.
After our long day we walked back to our hotel to enjoy some reading time on the balcony. It looks quite bright outside, but it is close to 8:30 pm or so in the evening at this point! 
And then we saw a somewhat creepy looking looking protest forming up in the plaza outside our hotel!
It actually wasn't all that creepy, protesters were holding up signs like "Our Jobs Are Not For Sale!" After deciphering their t-shirts, Caroline and I deduced that these were telephone union workers protesting layoffs. I know that Spain is facing serious economic woes and this just made it all that more clear.
We have a lovely dinner close the hotel and called it a night!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sitges: Day Seven

Seven days in to our trip we decided to take a vacation! ha! Actually, most museums and attractions are closed on Mondays, so with very little to do in the city we escaped to the beach! Sitges (see-shuz) is a popular resort town about 30 minutes south of Barcelona.
Our plan that day was to do nothing but read, swim and eat. Sounds great, right? It was!
Sitges itself, is a cutie pie little town with plenty of shops and restaraunts lining the streets.
The weather was perfect, it was probably about 85 degrees with a warm breeze.
We rented some umbrellas and reclining chairs and staked out our little peice of the beach. Below, Leanne holds the remains of the jelly fish. Yes, we were interested but kind of grossed out as well.

There's not much to say about a day spent relaxing. Oh! Except for the fact that going topless is very common, so being surrounded by semi-nude bathers was interesting! Caroline had a hard time understanding moms running after their kids without tops on, but hey, to each their own! And no, none of us engaged in the local practice, we remained as covered up as any puritanical American.

On our way home, we misread the information at the train depot and ended up getting on the wrong train. I cannot emphasize enough how nerve wracking it can be when trying to figure out transportation! Thankfully, we were going in the right direction, so we just waited for the next stop, got off, and then waited for the correct train to stop by. Sounds simple, I know, but it involved tropping around an unfamiliar train station and trying to find a list of which trains go where! We were so relived when the next train went straight to our train station in Barcelona! 
Once home from the beach, we again strolled around Barcelona enjoying the street performers.

The photo below is as close as we came to bullfighting in Spain.