July 7, 2019: Walking Barcelona

Sunday. GT2 Day Twenty Nine. Barcelona, Spain.

Today is our sleeping in day. I did not wake up until nine thirty! But my watch says that I did not go to bed until after one. But I got good sleep, about eight hours of it with more than two of deep sleep. So I should be good for the day. Dominica says that I snored, but only for a few minutes before changing position and not snoring any longer.

I got up and showered this morning. The shower, which Dominica had warned me about, is crazy in that it is only super hot or super cold. Like scalding hot, for sure. Overall the shower is nice, it would be pretty great, if only the temperature was bearable. But it can’t hold any temp and so you have to do all kinds of crazy things to manage it to keep yourself safe.

We got a late start today. No one was pushing to get out the door very quickly. It was around one when we finally went out. First order of business, get some lunch as we had skipped breakfast. We just hit the tapas place on the corner, close and easy. They were open and essentially empty so that was really easy. The girls just went for normal “American style” chicken fingers with honey mustard dipping sauce. I had seen that this place had had that last night so knew that we were safe going there. Dominica and I split three tapas. We got calamari, papas bravas, and aubergines (eggplant) fried with honey. It wasn’t Granada level tapas, but it was very good. Boy have we missed Spanish food (and Spain in general.) I grabbed a glass of red wine, too. Gotta start it all off right.

Just being in Spain immediately feels like home, like nowhere else does. I love Romania almost as much as Spain, but it doesn’t feel so incredibly “home” in the same way. Romania is very comfortable, but there is just something about Spain. No other place “gets me” in the same way.

We hit a pharmacy to get more nasal strips after lunch, but the local one is out of them. I only have enough for two days yet, which isn’t an emergency, but it would be nice to have it dealt with before we head back to the US.

We got out onto the real street and walked to the Barcelonetta train station, the same one that Dominica and I used to use back in 2012, and took that to the Placa de Catalunya so that we could start the free online walking tour that we had found. We started at the plaza and the fountain there, took a few pictures, and then headed onto Las Ramblas, the famous Barcelona pedestrian way that crosses the city. We walked that for hours, shopping as we went. The entire way is full of shops.

We also stopped into El Corte Ingles, the giant Spanish department store chain. This was one of the really big ones, nine floors. The girls were amazed, this was their first actual department store, ever. They are from the outlet generation and are really only used to outlet stores (one brand) and not department stores that sell everything. But this is a classic department store a la Harod’s, or the Hudson Bay Company, or Macy’s in NYC. We shopped there for quite a while. The girls tried some things on, and Madeline finally bought the belt that she had been looking for for the entire trip. And she got it for about four Euros, a far cry from the seventeen dollars that the belt she was going to settle on at Target would be.

On our walk through the city, we took a few side detours to see a handful of Gaudi buildings like the Palau Guell, the theater, the Bishop’s Bridge (I don’t think that Gaudi made that one), etc. We found an outdoor antiques market by a cathedral and Emily went ring shopping and bought herself an antique ring.

While she was ring shopping it started to rain! Real rain, the first that we have seen since being in Europe. And really, the first since leaving Texas. It is so nice to feel rain.

The guy who sold her the ring told us how much we had to go see the “magic fountain” at the Placa de Espanya. We had heard this from a few people. Dominica checked the schedule and saw that it was going to run at nine thirty tonight, and then not again until Wednesday night, after we have returned to the United States. So if we are going to see it, it has to be tonight. So that is our plan.

It was time for dinner, Emily was pretty hungry by this point. The plan is to hit a restaurant that we had heard about from some YouTubers called 100 Montaditos, where they have one hundred different small sandwiches that you can choose from. There was one on our way near the metro station, so it would be really easy. Our hope is that that will be cheap and easy and make it very hard to hot have things that everyone will like.

We found the restaurant easily enough. It is important to point out that the YouTubers really sold this as a Barcelona specialty place, it is not. It is a franchise chain from Huelva, these are everywhere. They are common in many countries, but they are at least Spanish. But Barcelona is not Spanish. So it is culturally not even a Barcelona or Catalan place. So selling it as a Barcelona experience is a bit much. Kind of like getting Taco Bell in New York, it’s good food at cheap prices, but in no way reflective of local New York culture or cuisine. But nevertheless, it’s supposed to be great eats. We just wish that it had been presented for what it is: southern Spanish chain low cost quality food that’s well suited for travelers.

We found the place easily enough, it was packed. It turns out that Sundays and Wednesday it is the entire sandwich menu for just one Euro per sandwich! So cheap. It took some coordinating to make it all work. The girls and I secured a table, while Dominica waited through at least a ten minute line to ask for an English menu. She and I might have been able to make due with a Spanish menu, but with over one hundred menu items that would have been relatively difficult. For the girls, it was going to be super challenging. So that took some time. Then I had to wait in a far longer line, because they had gotten so busy, to place the order. At least fifteen minutes. Placing it required doing so in Spanish, not a place that spoke English, but you wouldn’t expect them to. Then it was thirty minutes to get our food made, because they were so busy. Had we spoken Spanish and come when they weren’t busy, I suspect five minutes from door to food, they make it fast, they were just so backed up, it was crazy. There wasn’t room to move in the place, and the line was almost to the door, and the outdoor seating was packed, too, even with the rain hitting on and off.

We got our twenty sandwiches, plus two orders of french fries, and drinks all around. Total bill, twenty five Euros! In reality, four sandwiches went uneated and really I should not have had my fifth one. We could have done without the fries, probably, too, or just all shared one. We could easily have gotten the total cost down below twenty Euros for quite a filling meal for everyone if we had been more ambitious and knew how big the sandwiches were.

The food was good, we really enjoyed it. Getting a variety of food for all of us was something that we have not been able to do for this entire trip. So that was a huge success.

Once we were finished eating, we had to get moving to make it to the magic fountain show as dinner took so much longer than we had anticipated. We were right by the metro, so that was easy. Just hopped on and off we went to Placa de Espanya.

We got to the Placa just in time. We were walking up the broad boulevard just as all of the fountains were turning on to alert people that the show was about to begin. We got up the escalator to the observation level. Dominica and I stood on the ground, Madeline and Emily got up on the embankment thing and kneeled there to see better. The show started about five minutes early and lasts for a little less than ten minutes, so we are really lucky that we were a little early. A lot of crowds out for this tonight, even in the drizzle.

It may be hard to believe that a fountain show can be that amazing, but trust me, the magic fountain is certainly amazing. First of all, the entire fountain seems like it must be a kilometer long! I used Google Maps and eye balled it against their legend and in reality it is about half a kilometer long. Still, wow. It starts as a waterfall at the national museum and goes into a long series of fountains with the magic fountain (that’s its real name in English) about one third of the way along. It was built in 1929 and has to be the inspiration for giant fountains all over the world, but I have never seen one that actually compares to it. It’s staggering in its size and beauty. Totally worth going to see.

There was a little boy, maybe three years old, watching it near us and he just kept going “oh my gosh, mommy look at that”, it was so adorable and exactly how I felt about the fountain, too.

Once the show was done, we grabbed the metro back to Barceloneta and walked back to the apartment. We stopped at a Supermarcat and grabbed a few essentials so that we would have something in the apartment with us. Most importantly, laundry detergent. Tomorrow is our only chance to do laundry before we return.

And that was our day. From there, it was time for bed. The plan tomorrow is to be up super early, like at six, and go to Park Guell while it is still free to enter. That should save us forty Euros and get one of our big “must do” items off our list early in the day. Then we are planning to do lunch and return to the apartment to change. And from there, it is a beach day. Our apartment is walking distance from the beach and this is likely going to be our last beach trip before we return home.