Friday, May 29, 2015

Barcelona, Spain: Camp Nou, Torre Agbar, & La Merce

Actual date of this event: 21&22 September

Sunday was our last day in Barcelona. We put on our bathing suites underneath our clothes as we planned to use our metro pass like crazy and then head back to the beach in the afternoon. We took a ride out to Camp Nou first.
Camp Nou is the home of FC Barcelona. As one of the world's most successful soccer/football clubs, it was an amazing stadium! All right, we didn't go inside, but we did walk around the outside which was all shiny and clean looking. Much like an American football stadium :-)

We also took a walk through the shop, which was an experience in and of itself. There were jerseys and balls and water bottles and more galore! There was also a small stadium inside the shop where you could sit and watch an electronic screen show the players and other stuff. It was fun to see the images of some of the star players of the World Cup which happened just a few months prior.

We got back on the metro and took a long ride to Glories where Torre Agbar is located. We kept seeing this building each time we got city views, and we kept calling it the Gherkin (it looks just like London's Gherkin). It is colorful on the outside, but actually has little clear shutters on it which make the colors glisten a bit. The tower is the third largest building in Barcelona.

The area surrounding the skyscraper looked newly built but was very dead on a Sunday afternoon. We could even see La Sagrada Familia towering over the sky. It is crazy to think how much taller it will be when it is completed.

Next, we got on the metro to the beach. We stopped for an afternoon snack at one of the beachside restaurants and relaxed with a few beers. We did some of the best people watching we have ever done, and learned of new toys kids are playing with these days. We actually didn't even go onto the beach because we were too relaxed in our chairs.

Afterward, we went back to the hotel to change for dinner. A few days before, we scoped out a restaurant in L'Eixample that we wanted to try but it was too busy, Cerveceria Catalana. We decided we would head there for dinner and at the same time checkout some of the architecture we viewed on our second day. This was one of the best meals that I have ever had! The tapas were so delicious, we still talk about it to this day and have not found better! I think my favorite thing about the whole experience was that we sat at the tapas counter. We were able to watch the men prepare each plate and make drinks, and it was convenient to order more plates, which we did! We got lucky though because there was a huge line of people waiting, and when we walked in, a couple left the bar so we sat down immediately. No waiting! Anyway, I didn't take a single picture because we were both scarfing it down. After dinner, we walked down Passeig de Gracia looking at the interesting buildings.

Then we wandered our way back home through Barri Gotic. We stumbled upon the craziest La Merce event there is. La Merce is Barcelona's biggest festival, which celebrates the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Our Lady of Mercy. There are many days of events and activities all leading up to the actual feast day on Sept 24. The event most recognizable is The Castellers.
Unfortunately, this event did not take place until after we left Barcelona. It would have been pretty cool to see though! We did, however, see Correfoc which is an insane fire parade. We actually saw a daytime one the day before (probably much more contained)...

...and then the nighttime (probably much more drunkenness). I had read before going to Barcelona to stay as far away as possible or else you and your clothes will get burned. So that's what I did, while taking a video of course, meanwhile Luke snapped some pictures with the zoom lens.

Below is a video from the nighttime craziness.
We saw some coo-coo event at the Castle on Saturday, where a band was playing inside this spinning wheel thing that moved by two guys pedaling. So strange, but also fun :-)
To get the full effect, watch the video below.
La Merce on Sunday was a massive crazy party with loud fireworks popping all night. Somehow we got some sleep and were able to wake up Monday morning. We packed up our bags, and walked our way up to Placa de Catalunya where our airport bus would be. We took our time wandering though and actually passed a few things we hadn't seen yet.

After a while, we hopped on the bus back to the airport and said goodbye to the wonderful Barcelona! We really enjoyed this trip - really really enjoyed it! For us, it was the fact that it has everything anyone could want in a destination - small city, big city, beach, beer, wine, delicious food, unique architecture, sun, great culture, and relaxing but also busy. I am so glad we went for five nights, but amazingly, we did not do everything we wanted. Next time (and we really hope there will be a next time), we will see that fountain show and we will visit La Pedrera/Casa Mila!

Other posts from Barcelona: TeaserArchitectureLa Sagrada Familia & Park GuellBarceloneta & the WaterfrontChurches & MontjuicCamp Nou, Torre Agbar & La Merce

Built in 1957 with an expansion in 1982, Camp Nou is the largest soccer/football stadium in Europe, and the second largest in the world.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Barcelona, Spain: Churches & Montjuic

Actual date of this event: 20 September

When Saturday came, Luke and I had two fulls days left in Barcelona, so we needed to make a decision on what we wanted to do with those two days. I really wanted to take a day trip to Montseratt, but research showed it would require an early morning. We weren't so thrilled with that idea given our dinners were happening at 9pm, and we weren't getting home at night until after midnight. We decided to do the churches in the morning so we could dress appropriately (there is a strict dress code for the cathedral), and then head to Montjuic so we could see the fountain show that night.
We started out visiting the church right by our apartment that we walked by several times each day - Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar - Our Lady of the Sea. The interior was fairly plain, but of course the stained glass was very pretty. We learned while inside that we could do a rooftop and tower tour, but the times were limited and not convenient for our day, so we opted against it. It would have been a wonderful view though as we would have gotten the Barcelona Cathedral in it.

Next, we headed to visit La Catedral - The Barcelona Cathedral. We actually arrived just as the church was opening for visitors, so very few people were inside. I made the suggestion to head to the rooftop first so we could be the only ones up there. We took the elevator to the top, and discovered an extremely rickety walkway. Walking around was limited, but since we were the only ones up there, it was fine.

About five minutes later, people started to show up, so we headed back down. The inside of the cathedral was Gothic-style with dark-colored decor and gold lights, but still nice to look at.

We took a walk in the cloister outside and found geese swimming in a little pool in the sun. This was a very peaceful area of the church!

We left the church and walked a little bit in Barri Gotic. We had only really walked around in this area at night, and let's face it, those nights were mostly a blur. As it was a Saturday, there were lots of people walking around, and since it wasn't the afternoon, most of the shops were open.

We went back to the apartment to change - I had a long skirt on and Luke had on jeans since we needed to have church appropriate clothes. Then we hopped on the metro to Paral.lel where we would catch the funicular to the bottom of the cable car up to Montjuic. We were so absolutely confused when we could not find the funicular. After 20-30 minutes of walking everywhere in this area, we finally asked someone, but the area was not quite an English-speaking location, so our communication was very poor. Finally, as we were already up a good chunk of the hill, we saw the funicular coming out of a tunnel. We ran back down and saw the sign pointing into the metro station from where we came! Ah, we are idiots! Ooops. We took the funicular up (included in the metro pass), then we paid for the cable car (extra fee), and made our way all the way up to the top of Montjuic. The views going up were wonderful!

At the top was Castell de Montjuic, and a huge lookout point of the sea and major port. We walked around for a while. Then we sat for a while looking out a sea where we saw a few cruise ships depart for the night. Cruise ships seem to take forever to leave a port!

Luke and I wandered our way down the hill. We tried to follow a walking guide from our book that would take us through several gardens but the directions weren't very clear on which path to take... there were many from which to choose! We were still able to see lots of things on the way down though.

We reached Olympic Park where the 1992 game were held. The stadium seemed small, but the set up in front of it was beautiful! It helped that the sun was going down at that time, and only a few other people were in sight.

 Below is Luke's absolute most favorite picture he has ever taken. He LOVES it! hehe
Our final plans for the day were to see the fountain show in front of Palau Nacional. We were able to get some beautiful views from the palace and watch the sunset. Then we used the escalators to head all the way down to the bottom (I believe there were three sections going down).

La Font Magica is a beautiful fountain show that dances to music and lights. I had heard this was a must-do in Barcelona, but to be mindful of the days and times of the show. Before our trip, I made sure to check the website to see what days it would be on. Nothing came up as a problem for us. Well turned out that the calendar must have changed in the meantime. Due to La Merce, the fountain show was not happening that night nor the next night and also didn't happen the night before. We had waited around (and did extra walking to go find some beers for the show) all for nothing. After learning the show was happening, I tried to be a nice person and tell the others around us, but they spoke Russian, soooooo they didn't know what I was saying. Oh well. We were starving for dinner, so we ended up heading back to La Ribera to eat at Taller de Tapas again (Luke could not get enough of their seafood paella!). We took a walk by Palau de la Musica Catalan - a beautiful concert hall. Since it was dark out, we didn't get great pictures, but it was a gorgeous building.
We wandered in La Ribera, stopping for a few night caps, before we called it a night. It is a shame we didn't get to see the fountain show, but the rest of the day was great. We loved all of the views we got that day!

Other posts from Barcelona: TeaserArchitectureLa Sagrada Familia & Park GuellBarceloneta & the WaterfrontChurches & MontjuicCamp Nou, Torre Agbar & La Merce

Palau Nacional (where La Font Magica takes place) was the main site for the 1929 International Exposition (aka World's Fair). Currently, it is the home of over 5,000 art pieces (National Art Museum).

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