Date of Trip: July 2009
Sunday, June 28: Arrival in Barcelona
My husband Jim, teenage daughter Cate and I arrived in Barcelona on Sunday, June 28, at about 7:30 pm. We picked up our luggage and found the lockers fairly quickly. We got 39€ in change at the machines there, then was told that we only pay for one day, paying the rest when we return with the ticket. The attendants chuckled when they saw all our coins. – So now we have lots of euro coins.
We took the train to Barcelona “BARNA” – really tired – but found the hotel – Hostel Neutral. Quaint, perfect location. The doors have the old-fashioned keys & locks. I notice that here they use their antiques – chairs, etc. We have a nice room with a pretty tile floor, a small bathroom, 3 single beds, and a double door that opens onto a balcony above the street. It’s busy at night, but as it’s hot & we’re tired, hopefully we’ll be sleeping well in spite of the city noise from our open balcony doors.
We walked a few blocks to Taller de Tapas & ate inside, as their outside tables were closing. We had lamb, potatoes, roasted asparagus, bread with fresh tomato “sauce”, and chorizo. Each was a separate dish (tapas). The lamb came with potatoes & was priced the highest at €9.50. The total, including 2 house wines & a bottled water, was €29.50. Gave a couple of Euro tip (Europeans don’t usually tip much – their salaries are higher, I think.)
Back at the hotel, we bought 2 large cold bottles of water for €1.50 each. The waiter had said that Barcelona tap water is bad & he never drinks it, contrary to some travelers who say that the water all over Europe is fine.
Monday, June 29: Barcelona
Walked to Boqueria Market — fruit salads were €1, chocolate croissant €1.30, water €1.50.
Took a bike tour with Fat Tire, lots of riding — narrow streets, people, cars, poles — challenging for us older folks, although our 14 year old daughter had a blast. It was hot & humid, and my hands sometimes got slippery from the sweat! We stopped at different sites where our guide, “JJ’, would tell us about it.
Initially challenging to find Fat Tire — we got several answers when asking for directions, and forgot that some people will direct you even if they have no idea, deeming it impolite not to help. (Sometimes I wish some were not as “helpful”.)
The bikes have hand bells, which no one pays any attention to, so they’re useless — a loud horn would have been better. Riding in the street with all the cars is fun, also.
The park by the zoo has a Gaudi inspired fountain and a lake where rowboats can be rented. We also stopped at the beach. After the tour, we stopped at Cafe Imes in the Eixample area for a nice deli lunch (€5.10 each) — a sandwich or baguette w/ meat & cheese, a plate of tapas salads, and a drink (includes wine or beer).
PS: American portions at restaurants are twice what they are here, so it seems you are paying twice as much for half the amount. But very few fat people here. The humidity is also a factor in this!
Needing detergent (in the cruise bag) & shampoo (pre-cruise), we found a great grocery store — Caprabo — on Calle Consell de Cent 301. Amazingly low prices, esp. on their generic brands. Bought 1L OJ @ €1.20, 11/2 L water, € 0.42, shampoo (2 for €3), detergent €1.73 bag. Wondering about soda prices? One small grocery was charging €22 for 24 Coke cans. In Caprabo: a 12 pack for €5.30!
Nice department store, El Corte Ingles, by Plaka Catalunya — bought several fans. Prices range from €2 to €45 or so, with lots of selection in the €6 to €12 range.
Tuesday, June 30: Barcelona & Montserrat
Breakfast at Ciudad Condal, a Catalan upscale Denny’s of sorts; nice Spanish omelets.
Took the L1 subway to the train station to buy 3 tickets to Montserrat (€67.50). Wanted to buy the combination train & aeri (cable car) but the lady was gone. We got the train/funicular tickets, and then found we had missed our 9:36 train. It takes a while to get the tickets, figuring out what is needed — and interpreting the machines correctly, inserting proper change, etc. We waited an hour for the next train.
Nice ride to Montserrat & an interesting place. Not a whole lot to do there, but it was a good day trip. Did not want to wait for an hour in line to see the Black Madonna. In the church plaza is a vortex. People stand in the center of the circle and raise their arms heavenward.
After returning to Barcelona, we walked along the Ramblas, observing the many living statues, some oddly gruesome, then walked a block away to a main shopping area for locals, paralleling the Ramblas. Bought some needed basic earrings at Claire’s while my husband saw a couple of thieves bag up a rack of baseball caps and disappear into the crowd.
Stores are closed from about 2pm to 6 or 7pm. Restaurants (Cerveseria) stay open for dinner until 12 or 1am. Stamps can only be purchased at tobacco shops or the post office. Found an internet cafe (they’re all called that, although they’re not cafes). The internet: € .70 for 30 minutes; phone calls: € .18 a minute. Pedestrians cross at crosswalks 5-10 seconds before the light changes. You have to know what you’re doing, because cars don’t acknowledge any pedestrian right-of-way!
Wednesday, July 1:To airport for trip to Warsaw
After breakfast, we went into the subway station at Catalunya & looked for the train to the airport. We couldn’t find it, as I think we went into the wrong subway entrance. Someone there said that Sants is the best stop to get to the trains. That was 6 stops away. I had to use the bathroom, so we asked for directions. Several opinions on how to get there. Finally got off at Sants and found the WC upstairs by all the stores. It was free — which meant that it wasn’t that great. As I looked for a suitable stall, there was no toilet paper in some stalls, no lock on one door, another wouldn’t close, but I didn’t have time to find the ultimate, so had to settle for what I could find! They had stainless steel toilets with no seats. There was soap, water, & a blow hand dryer, though, thankfully. It was still not evident where the train to the airport might be, so we decided to get a taxi & went outside, finding one long queue for all taxis. Cost €30 for one and we were running late; traffic was horrible. We finally made it!
Extra Barcelona airport info: Luggage carts are free, the taxi had an automatic initial charge of €7.50, Warsaw is written Varsovia, and the exit sign says: Salida, Sortie, Sortida (the last word is Catalan, my guess is).
(From Wednesday, July 1 to Monday, July 6, we were in Poland.)
Monday, July 6: Begin Cruise in Barcelona
After we landed back at Barcelona to begin our cruise, we got on a bus to take us to the terminal. A stewardess ran out as the bus door was closing with Jim’s notebook, which he had left on the seat – it wasn’t essential, but still important to us, as he was keeping a list of our expenses.
We got to the terminal & got our luggage. We were at terminal T1. Jim said that the extra cruise luggage that we left in airport lockers was at terminal T2. So we took a T bus to the other terminal. It was crowded and there was no one who looked like they worked there to ask. We went outside and across the street to a locker facility. We knew it wasn’t where we left our luggage, and the attendant explained that there was a locker facility at T1. So we got on another bus back to T1 (It was getting late and we heard that we had to get to the ship by 5pm.) As we went back to T1, we looked for, but could not find our luggage ticket which we needed to get our bags. – Well, we made it to the other terminal, found the lockers, remembered where the locker was & told the attendants, gave our identification, paid the money we owed, and got our luggage and exited near the taxi lines. The driver was good, and we made it to the ship by 4:45pm.
The reason for the locker confusion is that Jim’s logical mind told him that the new terminal should be named T2, when in fact the new terminal at the Barcelona airport is T1! A nice terminal, large locker facility right in the airport in the lower level. So now you know.
Also: bathrooms are not as common in public places as in the USA, and it takes some searching to find them.