Saturday, December 12, 2009

Barcelona - Park Guell

This entry has been a long time coming because, well, I deleted it by accident. Just as I was telling someone on the Couchsurfing site about how this blogging software is always saving your posts so you don't lose them while you're writing, I lost a very long entry. How did it happen? It was while uploading images, a slow process from this hotel in Barcelona, when I did something that caused all the text to become selected, and when I pressed a key, all the text was deleted, actually replaced, by that character. At that precise moment the automatic save feature, usually a good thing, executed and saved my entry. Only problem was, it was empty, except for that single character, at that point. :-(           Ah,well, live and learn.

Picking up where I left off yesterday, with my bike locked a mile or so from my hotel, let me condense what I was going to say to just this: when I got back my bike was unlocked and my unknown antagonist's bike was gone as well. End of story. Ultimately it was merely a misunderstanding and his way to deal with it, which would have had serious consequences for me had I been leaving town yesterday, was only a minor inconvenience.

So, I rode off to visit the beautiful Park G├╝ell, which sits atop a hill on the north side of town. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is quite something to see. The ride up the hill on my rented single speed bike became so tough that I had to walk it for the last half-mile or so. A modern light weight bike with a derailleur and some gearing for hills would have been nice to have. Once again I found myself wishing for my Cannondale MTB, with its 27 gears and good disc brakes. A cooperative fellow tourist took this photo of me at the very top of the hill, at a place called Tres Cruses.

Below is a photo showing the main walkway with some of the remarkable Gaudi stonework found throughout the park.

I have several more photos prepared for this entry but as the upload process is so time consuming, I'll just have to come back and add them later. I had them all in here yesterday, dammit, and now they have to be re-sent to the server. This hotel, the Silken Concordia on the Av Paral.lel, is very nice hotel with friendly and helpful staff, excellent room layout and super clean facilities. I would recommend it to anybody wanting a nice, inexpensive hotel in Barcelona. However, the Internet service is slow and requires a different login and password sequence each day, a real PITA in these modern times. (The management assures me that a change is imminent.)  Especially if, like me, you're blogging and using high quality photographs to illustrate it. Below is a shot of some of the fabulous mosaic on the Dragon Fountain.

The Dragon Fountain is one of the more famous things found in this park. In Spain especially it seems everyone wants to have his or her photograph taken in front of whatever church or sculpture is the purported subject of the photo so you've got to be quick to get your shot. These school kids were hangingall over the dragon most of the time. The park was very busy on this beautiful day. Below is a picture of a woman working to restore the fine artwork on a wall near the fountain. (Click on the photo to see the fine detail.)

Oh, and I finally had some tapas. I ate in a restaurant in a lovely little square, the Plaza Reial, last night. I rode over on the bike after again failing to get that nighttime photo of the Torre Agbar. For some reason it was not lit up. Anyway, I had bumped into this little area after my visit to the ancient Jewish Quarter (photo right) earlier in the day and it appealed to me so much that I returned to it.
Another draw for me is that it's right off the fabulous La Rambla, Barcelona's tourist playground. The plaza is filled with outdoor cafes so it was just a matter of checking the menus, which are almost always posted in plain sight, until I found one with a selection I liked. Ah ha, the Cafe Rio was featuring a seafood tapa plate for 12 euro! Perfect.

My friend Gregg commented jokingly on Facebook that the trouble with Spanish paellas is that they usually have eyes. Even my very first meal, which I ate in a tiny bar near the hotel, had eyes: smoked herrings with potato salad. The herrings were, of course, served whole with the head attached. The other meals I've eaten here have all had whole prawns in them and last night's meal did too. Two huge prawns, 4 huge mussels, a few clams, a plate of assorted cheeses with chorizo and ham, some delicious batter dipped calamari, and french fried potatoes served, as is the custom here, with a spicy mayonnaise alioli. Everything had just the right amount of garlic and spicy heat. And everything was laced with liberal amounts of olive oil. (I have yet to see a piece of butter anywhere in Spain.) The meal was fantastic!

Anyway, here it is, 10 am already and I have a mission. My Valencia Couchsurfing host, Rety, who I won't meet in person until tomorrow, has suggested that I should visit the Olympic Village and see this famous tower, the Montjuic Communications Tower. I found it on Google Earth and note that it's very close to my hotel. And right nearby are a whole block of what appear to be tennis courts, clay tennis courts. All of a sudden the Olympic Park area has become a must see both for the tower and the tennis.