Gaudi or gaudy?

I’d arranged to meet Sharon at 10:00 and we walked to see the Sagrada Famila. This incredible structure has been under construction for over 125 years, partly under the guidance of Gaudi before he died. The estimated time of completion is still another 13 years ago by which time the building will have recovered its title of tallest structure in Barcelona with the completion of a 173m central spire. Stiill, the completion date’s as reliable as anything given to the FA for the new Wembley.

We wandered around and examined the inside and outside walls, the stained glass and the bizarre shapes used to hold this structure up. Carvings are all over the place and vary from traditional to very obscure or symbolic. The 1-hour plus wait to go up in the lift to see the view just wasn´t worth it to either of us, so we decided to skip it. If you want to do this, I suggest getting there early and queueing.

There was also a museum under the building with information on the construction and on Gaudi himself. A department was set aside where designers still work, building plaster models of the sections being worked on now. Its an incredible structure but I¨m still not sure if it’s ugly or not.

We next visited another respected and long-standing institution – KFC. Spain doesn´t have the Zinger! I settled for a fillet tower burger and chips without enough salt on. We next headed down to the port area via the Arc de Triomf and the park containing the Natural History Museum.

After a delicious ice cream, we boarded the cable car from the port to Miramar (€9) where we drank expensive beer and made friends with a scruffy black cat. There is supposed to be a furnicular railway up to the top but its still “being serviced” – we couldn’t even see the thing so it it must be back at the factory or something. Instead, we walked up the hill to the Castell de Montjuïc then got a different cable car partway down before strolling the rest of the way to my hostel There we enjoyed a hard-earned beer (me) and sangria (Sharon).

Showers and changes of clothes were required before we went out for dinner. Tonight we settled on a restaurant not far from Sharon´s place and paid a reasonable sum for two pasta dishes, some beer and a bottle of plonk.

We would be travelling far the next day so an earyl night was called for. OK; Sharon crashed when she got in. I stayed up till 2:30am on the internet. Whoops.

So, let’s check out Barca

I slept quite late – a hangover from Download – and missed breakfast. Instead I grabbed some bread from the “free food” drawer and heated up the tin of beans I’d lugged all the way from Birmingham. Beans on toast in Spain – smashing!

I then went for a wander to get my bearings and to trey and find Sharon’s hostel before she arrived that afternoon. I walked for more than three hours in the heat and enjoyed it. Barcelona is a very “random” city with streets of all sizes and at all angles. They all seem to have something down them as well. It would take months to catalogue every one.

One thing that struck me was the proliferation of ATMs. Unlike Jerusalem where I had to walk 15 minutes to get to one that wasn’t locked inside a bank, you can´t spit in Barcelona without smearing your phlegm over three of the things. Another thing is the seemingly mad mix of architectural styles old, new and bizarre. And the final thing is that Spaniards like dogs of all shapes and sizes and will happily walk them – off the lead – around a majpr city centre. Cool.

My main focal point for the day was the impressive Monument a Colom down near the port. It´s similar to Nelson’s Column back home but much more intricately decorated. You can climb it for a shade over €2 but I thought I’d leave that till Sharon arrived.

Talking of whom… I found her hostel and loafed there for a short while until she arrived. Sharon is the very kind person who put me up and drove me to Heathrow on my very last night in the UK before all this kicked off. She dumped her stuff, got changed and we went for a walk along Las Rambles amongst all the human statues and portrait painters. We eventually settled on a Tapas bar called Sinatras and ate very little food of very high quality for a very, very large sum of money. From now on, I´m sticking to fast food and supermarkets.

We bar-hopped until the early hours when I escorted Sharon “home” and then headed hostelwards myself. The crazy American/Canadian kids in my dorm didn’t do as good a job of waking me in the middle of the night as they´d one the previous evening. Thankfully. For them.

Hola España! (The proper post)

A very rushed day. I woke around 11am and hung my washing out to dry, fed the cats and woke Anni which turned out to be the hardest job of all. We drove to the Post Office to collect a pedometer that Sheilah had kindly mailed me for use on The Walk.

Lunch was KFC – Wales is technically a new country on the tour, so I´m not cheating – and I notice they´re now putting a nice spicy sauce in the Zinger burgers. About time.

I also popped into a couple of camping stores. Kudos very kindly gave me a huge discount on a new rucksack and sleeping mat when I told them about The Walk. Thank you!

Back at the house I took far too longrepacking my things. Added to that, some roadworks on the M4 directing traffic along the route we were taking to the airport and I was fidgetty to say the least when we pulled into the parking bay. No need to worry though, as I was in good time. I had a short conversation with a little boy who wanted to know if the bridge in the blue star in my shirt was the Severn Bridge. And it turns out his dad was from Newcastle as well. He should have known better!

I wolfed down most of my snacks before boarding the flight. The security staff were as thorough as the Israelis but nowhere near as rude or rough with my things. The plane was fairly full, but we managed to take off on time and I only had to threaten the little girl behind me once with what I´d do to her if she didn´t stop kicking my chair. I can get messages across to children very well when I choose to.

Barcelona airport was a quick one to get through. Within 30 minutes I was on the train platform awaiting the express to Barcelona Sants (€2.50) and shortly after on a connecting Metro to Paral.lel (€1.50) before walking a whole two minutes to my hostel.

I thought I´d wandered into a nightclub, the music was so loud in the lobby/bar area. Definitely no problem with atmosphere! The noisy lobby is well-separated from the rooms and I dumped my stuff before heading back down for a litre of beer and an email check before bed.

Hola España!

I’ll probably fix this post once I figure out how to speak Spanish but at the moment I’m contending with typing English on a Spanish keyboard with a very unfamiliar layout while my leg goes dead on a badly-designed stool…

I will also get the remaining two Donington posts done “when I can”. There is free internet here but only in 20 minutes slots, so I’ll have to write it up then type it up.

Suffice to say I am safe, in Spain, have half of a litre of beer in front of me (I’ve drunk the other half) and a very good friend flies in tomorrow. Catch you all when I get the chance!