Monday, June 16, 2008


Pictures of Barcelona

Barcelona, the city, is simply amazing. It is everything that Madrid is not. Less smokers, more bicycles, and way more civic pride. I arrived early in the morning after an all night train ride, and checked into a cheap hotel in the Bari Gotic, or Gothic neighborhood. It was a simple hotel, 30 euros per night with a shared bathroom down the hall. I took a quick nap, then proceeded to check out the city by bike. My new folding bike worked perfectly for the entire trip, and I am convinced this is by far the best way to travel to a new place. I was able to take it on the train without a hitch, just fold it up and put it in the bag that came with it. When I got to the train station in Barcelona I just unfolded it, put my backpack on, and peddled off while all the other travelers were standing there waiting on the bus, subway, or just trying to figure out to get where they were going. Immediately I noticed that almost all of the streets have bike lanes, and I don’t mean some thing on the side of the road, I mean real lanes that are separated from traffic by trees, or a curb. This was my favorite thing about the whole city. In the Bari Gotic the streets are well suited for cycling too, as the roads are not wide enough to allow passage of vehicles! Imagine, roads that were built before anyone conceived the idea of cars. I zipped down Las Ramblas, the most famous street in all of Spain, to the port, and down the beach for a few miles. Las Ramblas is a huge pedestrian walk that has hundreds of stores and open air markets selling everything under the sun. The flower section was really beautiful. The pet section had every sort of pet you could imagine, including baby prairie dogs! About halfway down to the port is a giant Miro mosaic built into the promenade. Imagine, walking on a priceless Miro work? Well, you can do it here, and it is real, not a reproduction, or fake, he installed it himself. I spent 2 days riding around looking at the sights, and visiting some important landmarks. I chose not to go into most of the churches and museums simply because I was having so much fun riding around a new place. I did go to La Sagrada Famila, which you can read about elsewhere in this blog. I did manage to eat my first paella here in Spain, and it was better than any paella I have ever tasted! The restaurant was called Amaya, and was about 40 years old. It is a famous spot on Las Ramblas, and I happened to luck into it. Later in my trip, a local I met on the island of Menorca actually recommended it to me, he was surprised that I had already eaten there. Here is the website if you want to check it out: AMAYA, Cuina Basca. (many of the links in the site are under construction, but check out the gallery) The bike system in Barcelona is super advanced and popular. Residents pay $25 euro for a electronic card that is swiped at any of the many bike depots around town. It automatically unlocks a bike, and you are free to use it for up to 2 hours. You simply ride to wherever you want, and re-rack the bike and go about your business. The program was launched just over a year ago, and they have had to double the service already. The bikes are comfortable 3 speed affairs with a basket, and are all serviced regularly. Now that’s a progressive forward thinking populace! Finally, I stumbled upon a park that had the neatest children’s slide I have ever seen, it was in the shape of an angel fish!

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