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Part 2: Barcelona

12.6: Munich -> Girona -> Barcelona
13.6: Barcelona
14.6: Barcelona
15.6: Barcelona -> Madrid
16.6: Madrid
17.6: Madrid
18.6: Madrid -> El Escorial -> Toledo -> Cordoba
19.6: Cordoba -> Sevilla
20.6: Sevilla -> Zahara de los Atunes
21.6: Zahara de los Atunes
22.6: Zahara -> Cadiz -> Zahara
23.6: Zahara -> Tarifa -> Zahara
24.6: Zahara -> Marbella -> Granada
25.6: Granada -> Malaga
26.6: Malaga -> Memmingen -> Munich

12.6: Munich -> Girona -> Barcelona
Apartment Diagonal A, Passatge Josep Llovera 13, 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). Quiet area.
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.

Memmingen 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All these must be unpublished rules.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 check-in luggage.

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).

Punctually 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 beaufiful church.

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. Interesting.

At 10:25pm we take a taxi back to the apartment. The kids sleep at 11pm.

13.6: Barcelona
Apartment Diagonal A, Passatge Josep Llovera 13, Barcelona.
Weather: a mix of overcast and sunny blue sky (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 selling food 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 quickly disappears.

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.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon