Breathtaking Barcelona

Left Valencia today, Tuesday 2 May, walking 20 minutes to the station to catch the 10.05am train to Barcelona. We were there by 2pm. We had directions to go to the restaurant of our AirBnB hostess’s father – so this we did and ordered his menu of the day as Joelie and Ken had not yet arrived. Not long after we started eating Ken turned up, then went and got Joelie so we had our reunion as we finished our lunch. That of course was a lot of fun.

The apartment we are sharing is in L’Eixample (pron. ‘lay-sharm-pla’), one of the central areas in Barcelona. It is a very nice quirky place. Our hostess, Nadia, is an artist, Joelie thinks, either a teacher or a student, and the apartment certainly reflects that. For example, our coffee table is 3 suit cases of different size on top of each other at fetching angles. On one wall in large different font letters is the word PAELLA – for which Barcelona is famous. A macrame hanging seat hangs in the sitting area, like a sitting up hammock. The book shelves are a series of packing boxes. Enough details to remind us of the place. It is very comfortable, in addition to the living-dining rooms, two bedrooms with comfy double beds, plenty of cupboard space, a washing machine which the Wilkos have already used for their very large number of dirty clothes. So, well set up for the week.

Petit Pelau with Forte Piano

We had a nice wander after settling in, then went to a piano recital at night at the small concert hall – called the Petit Palau – associated with the main concert hall. A very nice space, reminded us of the small Salon as part of the Elizabeth Murdoch complex. The pianist, playing on a forte piano, was Kristian Bezuidenhout. We have heard him before with the ACO. It was a lovely concert of Beethoven and Haydn, including two beautiful Beethoven sonatas. He was born in South Africa, commenced his piano studies in Australia, and then went on to complete them in London.

Wednesday 3 May

We all slept solidly, with Jo and Ken specially recovering from their flight. We were up early and left at 8.30am to join a bus tour – Highlights of Barcelona. It started at 8.45am and went till 2.00pm. It was run by Julia Travel and cost AUD50. We had a very good guide, Joanna, a young Italian woman, fluent in English and Spanish. Her knowledge of Spanish politics and local Catalan politics was most impressive. The tour included a couple of stops, one for morning tea, and the second for a very interesting artificial Catalan village based on handcrafts, arts and local products. That involved tastings of olive oil, a couple of wines, and balsamic ‘cream’. We also were taken by cable car from the top of a mountain which gave us an incredible view across Barcelona. Back in the bus, we subsequently passed many interesting buildings, many of which were by Gaudi, and we will see them again later in the week.

We went to the market then and picked up some tasty things for lunch, then went home for a break. We went out again later and visited the Cathedral, another very large place. It has a wonderful cloister, with 13 geese in a pool in the centre. This is to do with Sant Eulalia who was a 13 year old girl who in the 4th century was killed by Roman forces because of her Christian beliefs. She, with St George, is joint patron saint of Barcelona. The 13 geese are in her memory. There is also a lovely little shrine to her in the street outside the cathedral – marking the place from which she was supposedly rolled in a barrel into the river, but she survived and was subsequently crucified.

We liked better another church near to it called Santa Maria del Pi (referring to the pine tree in front of it). It has a wonderful rose window, said to be the largest in Europe. It is very modern looking, and quite beautiful. Not sure when it was most recently restored, but post 1936 as the church was burnt by vandals in 1936. It also has other very rich stained glass windows and other aspects are worth a look. A new organ, still being built, but looking very good. In one of the chapels we found a graphic group of 4 made from clay, including a very sad Mary placing Jesus in the tomb.

We went from there back to the market where we had a nice salmon meal. Then home around 9pm, in the process of which Joelie and I became separated from Ken and Al. Neither of us had a phone or any money or a map and were lost for about 30 minutes. Finally they found us, but we were beginning to get a bit worried. We couldn’t even remember our apartment address!

The end of our first day in Barcelona – a very good day.