| Part 2: Barcelona
12.6: Munich ->
Apartment Diagonal A, Passatge Josep
Barcelona. 90 Euro for a small flat with two bedrooms, a living room
with kitchen corner and a small bathroom. A/C, fully furnished, clean,
nice, washing machine and clothes dryer available. The only problem is
the location (a 10 minutes walk to the nearest metro station, Gracia).
Weather: cool and rainy in Munich,
more warm in
Memmingen (18°C). Initially overcast in Girona when we arrive, mostly
sunny in Barcelona in the afternoon. Temperatures in Barcelona around
25°C during the day, which feels hot under the sun (light clothing
needed). In the evening around the harbour area windy and fresh (light
jacket needed). No rain the whole day.
We leave home at 9:35am and start driving towards Memmingen. At 10:40am
we are at the parking, where we'll leave the car for two weeks (42 Euro
parking fee, i.e. 3 Euro/day). The parking guy is there and drives with
another car (which we follow) to the airport.
airport seems to be the airport of a former US military base. Quite
small airport by the way. At the airport we give the car keys to the
parking guy. He'll drive our car to the parking and return the car to
the airport two weeks later when we are back.
So starts the check-in procedure. After a short waiting time in the
queue we check in. We have paid for two 20Kg and a 15Kg checked-in
pieces of luggage. Everything proceeds smoothly. I ask about the baby
stroller. The lady tells me that children until 4 years of age are
entitled to either a child seat or a child stroller. Interesting, this
wasn't on the website of Ryanair. On the website the age limit is 2. We
have only three pieces of cabin luggage, because I had read somewhere
in the web that if a child has a stroller, the child loses to the right
to the 10Kg cabin luggage.
All these must be unpublished rules. I guess the fact that we paid for
a total of three pieces of checked-luggage played a role. Had we paid
only for two pieces of check-in luggage, perhaps they would have made
problems and forced us to pay 40 Euro for a check-in luggage.
Around 12pm we pass through the security check. Shirley is asked to
drink a bit of the water and fruit juice she is carrying in the kids'
bottles. Probably the staff wants to be sure that what Shirley is
carrying is really water.
At 12:20pm we start queueing up at the gate. Lots of people with cabin
luggage exceeding the 55x40x20cm size limits. In theory Ryanair staff
could force these people to check-in their luggage and pay a 40 Euro
fine, but nobody seems to care. Quite a few kids by the way, we are not
the only family with kids.
At 12:45pm we board the plane, a Boeing 737-800. Very narrow rows of
seats, there is no pocket for magazines in the rear of the front seat.
The plane is hot like a sauna, no idea what they have done to make it
so hot, because outside it's quite fresh and the sun is not so strong.
We're in the sauna for 20 minutes, then finally at 1:05pm they close
the doors and switch on the engines and the A/C system. The plane takes
off at 1:10pm.
The food offering (you must buy your own food and drink) is limited and
not exactly cheap. 5 Euro for a ham and cheese sandwich, 7 Euro for a
dish of noodles with tomatoes (which today are out of stock), 1.50 Euro
for a small bag with two or three cookies.
The plane lands in Girona at 2:35pm. Girona airport is a medium size
airport, relatively modern. No gate system, we have to walk to the
building from the plane. We immediately retrieve the baby stroller as
soon as we exit the plane and by 2:50pm we have also retrieved the
After that we walk outside and purchase three bus tickets to Barcelona
(12 Euro each, Natasha does not pay). This must be the 3:15pm bus.
Comfortable bus with rows of 2 x 2 seats.
The trip to Barcelona proceeds smoothly. The motorway from Girona to
Barcelona is a good quality 2-lane motorway (toll has to be paid).
at 4:15pm we arrive in a bus station in Barcelona. Then we take a taxi
to the office of the apartment rental and along the way get a first
impression of Barcelona. The city, or let's say what we see of
Barcelona, is clean and well kept. Much cleaner than the average
Italian city for instance. Here and there I see along the way buildings
with interesting architecture.
The office of the rental agency where we retrieve the keys is in Calle
Capellans, a small side street in a pedestrian area. While the taxi is
waiting, I retrieve the keys and pay the deposit. They tell me that on
the day of the departure we have to leave the apartment at 10:30am (so
early!) and we can leave the luggage with them for the day. In practice
we can't leave the luggage with them, because we have a lot of luggage
and their office is not reachable by car.
By 5 something pm we are in the apartment. We unload our stuff and
before 6pm leave the apartment and start exploring Barcelona. It's June
12th and the days last very long (it only starts getting dark after
10pm). When we leave the apartment, the first challenge is to find
public transportation, because we have no car. It takes a lot of asking
and finally people direct us to a quite far away metro station
(Hospital Clinic). We walk for quite some time, then finally we reach
the Diagonal metro station. There it takes some time to figure out what
ticket is suitable for us. After some asking we buy a ticket for 7.65
Euro which apparently allows 10 rides for up to three people each
(Natasha does not pay).
We take the metro to Sagrada Familia and there head to the church,
arriving shortly before 7pm. Tons of tourists, tourist infrastructure
(souvenir sellers, restaurants, cafés etc.). Big disappointment because
the beautiful Sagrada Familia church is largely surrounded and covered
by scaffolding. Tough to get decent photos. Still, what a
In the meantime it's 7:15pm and Shirley and the kids have had no lunch
today. We explore a bit the area. Most restaurants are very expensive,
we estimate that they are about 50% more expensive than in Germany.
This is something we'll note again and again in Barcelona: food,
restaurants and the overall price level is very high. In the end, by
popular vote (kids + me are in favour, Shirley against), we decide to
have something in a KFC restaurant. Way less expensive eating here than
in other places in the area.
At 8pm we're done with the dinner and we explore the Sagrada Familia
church from the inside. Beautiful also from the inside, stunning
colourful windows, masterpieces of the architect Antoni Gaudi.
By the way, moderate traffic on the streets, no traffic jams. Perhaps
this is because today it's the weekend.
We head by metro to the next place. At 9pm we are in Liceu, next to the
harbour. Very impressive and fotogenic architecture (two buildings in
19th century style). There is a bridge which leads into the port area
and which is full of people. Drawn by curiosity, we head there and
follow the people.
It turns out that at the end of the bridge there is a huge commercial
area with shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas and also some place for
kids. Everything not exactly cheap, but who cares (everything is
expensive in Barcelona, bring a lot of cash with you). Quite cool and
fotogenic place, people in Barcelona have good taste when it comes to
architecture. We end up staying here until after 10pm. The kids have a
lot of fun in the trampolin area. I'm surprised that Natasha, who
currently is 3 1/2 years old, is not afraid of making huge, 4-5m high
jumps. Instead of being scared and crying for the mommy this little
girl is laughing like crazy and enjoying every second on the trampolin.
At 10:25pm we take a taxi back to the apartment. The kids sleep at 11pm.
Apartment Diagonal A, Passatge Josep
Llovera 13, Barcelona.
Weather: a mix of overcast and sunny
(more sunny blue sky than overcast). Temperatures around 25-26°C during
the day, no rain. Warm, but not too hot. It must have rained during the
night. No rain the whole day.
We leave home late at 10:30am. We explore a bit the area around the
apartment and find a food shop open 24h. There we buy some stuff for
the breakfast, then start walking to the metro station along Traversa
de Gracia. The Gracia metro station should be easy to find, but we
don't find it because we get wrong directions from local people.
So we simply walk through the Gracia area until 1pm. The highlights
here are the buildings in modernisme style by Antoni Gaudi, of which
several are in this area. Some of these buildings are quite nice and
original, but ultimately they are not too impressive. We could have
visited something else more interesting in Barcelona.
It's 1pm and I'm thinking of heading to Park Guell, which looks quite
interesting. On the other hand I guess Shirley and the kids must be
quite tired after so much walking. Short discussion and we decide that
after lunch at 1:30pm (a Chinese restaurant we found only opens at
1:30pm - apparently in Spain people like to have lunch late), I'll
escort Shirley and the kids back to the apartment where they will take
a rest until 6-7pm, while I continue my sightseeing.
So, after lunch, we return to the apartment. At 3pm I get out again and
initially head to the Muntaner metro station, then change my mind and
head to the Gracia metro station which is indeed closer. At 3:20pm I'm
there, then I take the metro to Diagonal, where I change and take the
line to Lesseps, arriving at 3:40pm.
From Lesseps it's a 15 minutes walk to Park Guell and in fact I'm there
shortly before 4pm. I has taken me almost one hour to get here, perhaps
I should have taken a taxi.
Park Güell is very impressive. Examples of the Modernisme architecture
are everywhere. Very beautiful and very well choreographed. Park Guell
essentially is a park on a hilltop, with some Modernisme buildings
which look as if there came out of a fairy tale. One of the houses
looks like the house of the witch in Hänsel and Gretel. Then there is
this colourful salamander fountain, with a spire with a cross on top
covered by blue and white ceramic tiles in a checkboard pattern. The
terrace has benches with colourful mosaics made out of pieces of
ceramic. I wonder why the colours do not fade under the strong sun and
why the mosaics do not get damaged when people sit on them.
From this terrace and from other parts of Park Güell there is a nice
panoramic view of Barcelona. It's possible to walk on a small hilltop
from which there is an even better view of Barcelona. Would be great to
be here after dark, but the park closes at 9pm and it only gets dark
after 10pm right now.
I'm in Park Güell until shortly after 5pm. Still too early to head back
to Shirley, but on the other hand it might take some time to get to the
next place by public transportation. The Lesseps metro station is 1200m
away from the park. I ponder for a minute if I should take a taxi to
Catalunya square, then decide to do it with public transportation. I
speedily proceed towards the Lesseps metro station and 25 minutes later
I get out of the Passeig de Gracia metro station.
Here in this place are some masterpieces of the Gaudi architecture, the
Manzana de la Discordia and Casa Batiló houses. The light is not good
because these houses face east and it's late afternoon and the sun
shines mostly from the west. Passeig de Gracia, on which the houses
are, is a broad road with double double rows of trees and several lanes
on each side. This is an elegant street with high end boutiques, shops.
Not sure where I am, I continue walking towards the more interesting
direction and happen to make it to Catalunya square, where I originally
wanted to be. This seems to be the main square in Barcelona, with a
fountain and green areas. Students are camping there demonstrating
peacefully against something.
It's almost 6pm now. I continue walking along the Las Ramblas street
for a while. This is also an elegant street with high end boutiques,
shops, etc., but with many people and a lot of life. Lots of stalls
and souvenirs, street artists etc. Sort of a mix between the Champs
Élisées and the Quartier Latin in Paris.
At 6:20pm I start heading back, taking the metro in the Liceu station.
A young couple with two dogs is in the entrance hall of the metro
station, right in front of the barriers. When I insert my ticket and
pass through, very quickly they follow me and pass through the barriers
without paying the ticket. The alarm sounds, and the young couple
I'm in the apartment at 6:50pm. At 7pm we leave together and
start walking towards the Gracia metro station. Since the entrance
which we catch has no elevator (most metro stations in Barcelona have
elevators for disabled people and for people with baby strollers), I
carry the stroller down the stairs.
We go to Catalunya square by metro. By now the cloud cover has
disappeared and the warm evening sun is shining through. Lots of people
on Las Rambls street. We walk it through until the end, making several
stops here and there. Lots of things to see, caricature
painters and street artists everywhere,
also very skilled ones.
It's almost 9pm when we reach the end of Las Ramblas, which is the
harbour, the same area where we had already been yesterday. We spend
some time there, pondering what to do next. It's not clear if the
cablecar to Montjuic still runs after dark and it could be complicated
getting a taxi there. On the other hand if we walk again to the fun
fair area, it's going to get very late for the kids. So we simply
take a taxi back to the hotel.