This is also from December when I was in Spain.
We got up pretty early to make it to the train to the airport. I don’t know what time it was, but it was way before noon.
If you have flown in the US recently, you have probably heard the flight attendants going on and on about using the space under the seat. This is not the case in Spain. The overhead bins were filled before even half the passengers were seated. No one was using the space under the seats. People seemed to be going out of their way to put all manner of things, even things that it would seem would be much more convenient to have at hand, in the overhead bins. One older woman was very upset that she would not be able to carry her bag on with her. Thankfully, my only bag fit under the seat and we managed to get Jen’s overhead.
When we arrived in Barcelona, we decided to get tickets for a tourist bus that drives around the city. I think we paid something like thirty Euros for two days. The bus has headsets that provide a narration (in a dozen languages) of the sites and points of interest. We got a map for one of these buses at the hostel when we checked in. When we got on the bus we were very confused about why the stops all seemed different. It turned out there were two bus companies.
One of the cool things in Barcelona was these free bikes. Sadly, you have to sign up to use them, so they’re no good for tourists. As I approached one of the stations to try to read the sign to see what the deal was, this German couple, apparently doing the same thing, rushed off as if they might impede my being able to use the kiosk. Moments later a guy came over and as I was about to rush off because I might impede his being able to use the kiosk, he waved his wallet by the thing and went and got a bike. As I walked away, the German couple asked about how the system worked, as I tried to respond in Spanish, the started speaking perfect English. Yeah, obviously they’re fluent in several languages.
Oh, and in Barcelona they speak both Spanish and Catalan, just to keep things interesting. Pretty much everywhere we went English worked just fine. And while I’m talking about language, an interesting note about the way Spaniards pronounce s sounds is that they are more like a th sound, so it’s like they have a lisp. It seemed more pronounced with older people, who would pronounce “gracias” more like “grathiath.” The story is that there was a king who had a lisp and proclaimed that everyone else should lisp too, or that everyone started talking that way to be like the king. It turns out that’s just not true. As so many oft-repeated urban legends are, it’s a great story.
Barcelona is famous for Antoni Gaudi’s architecture (wikipedia, Barcelona Tourist Guide). Our first hop off the bus was this wacky cathedral he designed. This thing looks like it was designed by Dr. Seuss. (I kept an eye out for hat-wearing cats, but never saw one.) Cathedrals often take centuries to build and Sagrada Familia is no exception. It’s been under construction since 1882. They think they might finish it in another 30-80 years. I’ve seen a few cathedrals in France.
Our next stop was Park Gűell, also designed by Gaudi. It too was pretty wacky. Lots of pretty flowers and such, a surprising number for December. (See them on Picassa.) There were also cool sculptures.
And fun places to sit.
In the park was the house in which Guadi lived. He did not design it, but he did design a bunch of the furniture there.
That night we walked around the area near our hostel. We hit a tapas place that looked really good. We tried to sit outside, but were redirected to table inside (it was near the totally open entrance, so it was almost outside). There was a wide array of tapas. I sent Jen to go select some for us and then got up when I decided that I too wanted to participate in the selection. About that time the waiter basically told us that he would decide what it was we wanted. He brought out a huge plate, a bit more than we might have chosen. He also included a couple other things, which were tasty, but we might not have ordered all of it if we had been aware of what we were spending.
As in Madrid, there were Christmas lights everywhere.
You can see some more pics you’re interested.