Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lovely Barcelona

I had a wonderful bike ride up to the Olympic Park (the summer games were held here a number of years ago) this morning. I saw the Montjuic Radio Tower, I saw kids playing (Aussie rules) football and of course, their national pastime, soccer (which they call football). This scene doesn't provide the sense of hectic activity I witnessed from my vantage point above the field. Whistles were blowing constantly, kids were running here and there, coaches were yelling. Very frenetic.

I tried to find those tennis courts I spotted from Google Earth but they proved elusive - the entrance to them at any rate. I circled around them from every side, climbing and re-climbing the hills they're nestled in -- I got close but never set foot on them. But I did see the Montjuic Tower and I suppose it's one that all radio stations should aspire to emulate, in terms of design at least.

 The Olympic Park is spacious and I'm sure, a mecca for anyone interested in sport. I saw many people biking in the park, along with walkers, runners, and others just out to feast on the views of the spacious plazas and immense buildings in the complex.

 I must add a comment about biking. I have enjoyed the hell out of biking in this city. Of course you know I enjoyed biking in Amsterdam too but here the weather is so much better, perfect for biking. While riding in big city traffic is a challenge, I must admit I enjoy the adrenalin rush involved with keeping up with the traffic, making my way night or day to places that are miles away. It's hard to understand why someone like me, who loves the peace and quiet of the Skyline Drive ride in Homer could be so excited about riding in this big city traffic but I am. Another benefit of biking everywhere is that I don't have to learn the subway/metro/bus systems at all. Check out this subway map for Barcelona. Confusing, isn't it? Bikes and my autorouting GPS have solved my transportation problems very satisfactorily.

Barcelona, like Paris, makes bikes available to its citizens for a nominal charge. There are bike stations located all around. I'm sure it encourages bicycle use. As a tourist you cannot rent the Barcelona bikes because you need a local address to which a permit card can be mailed but there are normal rentals available like the one I have. Here is a photo taken right across the avenue from my hotel. The nicely dressed couple is uncharacteristically waiting for the signal to change in their favor. A bike parking station is visible in the background. Residents merely scan their bicycle rental card, remove the bike from the rack and drive away. They can return the bike to any station in the metropolitan area.

A look at my watch tells me it's 4:30 which means I must saddle up and head back to the rental place to return my bike. I'll walk back here via La Rambla and perhaps return to the Plaza Reial for dinner. It's been another special city on a tour that's only now reaching the halfway mark. I had toyed with the idea of staying in the U.S. after Christmas and finding a place to play tennis but now I've decided to proceed with my original plan and head to Thailand in February. Talks with Ainara in Bilbao have convinced me that, should Thailand prove too hot and uncomfortable for me, China is a definite possibility. Plus, Ainara will be in Thailand in February. I hope to be able to meet up with her there.

I reckon it's fated that I will feel sadness every time I leave a place. It's certainly been that way for my European adventure. After I surrender my bike I'll walk down La Rambla for the last time. Naroa told me I'd love Barcelona and she was right. I bought my tickets back to Paris this morning too, so before very long I'll be back in the states for Christmas. Sigh. It will be great to spend Christmas with family but I'll certainly be thinking about the trip to Thailand and about returning to Europe someday.