World Trip HomePost Eight

Post Eight - Barcelona

Barri GothicBarri Gothic

This picture reminds me of our first afternoon in Barcelona. We were in a hotel in the city's Gothic quarter, and I had just woken up from exhausted, restless sleep to the strains of flamenco music drifting in the hotel window. We had gotten up early to disembark from the Millenium, the cruise ship on which we crossed the Atlantic, checked into our hotel room, and fallen into bed for a much-needed nap. Flamenco? Momentarily disoriented, I looked out the window and saw this view. That's right, Barcelona.

The garish bubble-gum pink of the walls was muted to a warm coral by the sunlight shining through the window's frosted glass. Scott was already awake, reading our guidebook. "You know, it feels as if I just dreamt that we took a two-week cruise across the Atlantic," I mused aloud. He smiled. "Yep, I know what you mean."

The bed under my body was firm and springy as I sat up. The floor and the green pedestal sink shone from a recent scrub. Crisp, line-dried towels hung from the towel bar. After the luxury of the Millenium, I was worried I would turn into a travel spendthrift. Yet I felt at home to be in this small, 2-star hotel room just off the Ramblas, one of Barcelona's most crowded city streets.

We were finally in Europe, poised to explore Spain. Let the trip begin, I thought. -- Karen

Moorish DoorMoorish Door

Ten days at sea after leaving Florida, we arrived in Barcelona. Excited to finally start the next phase of our travels, we quickly found a room and set out to explore the city. After feeling linguistically helpless during our brief stop in Portugal, it was nice to be in a country where we could use our Spanish again. One of the great lessons from this trip is the importance of knowing some of the local language.

It had been six years since our last trip through Europe and a lot had happened to us since then. Would Europe be the same as we had remembered? If not, had it changed or had we changed?

This is a photo of a Moorish design on a door at the Barcelona city hall. -- Scott

A Proper Glass of BeerA Proper Glass of Beer

In Seattle, my friend Craig and I spent many an evening lamenting the fact that the 'pint' of beer you buy in a pub is often less then a full pint. Large bottomed glasses, excessive amounts of head, and even blatant under-pours are a common problem in the United States. Europe, after centuries of working on important issue, has come up with a good solution. Often (but not always) the beer you order comes in a glass with a mark on the side to indicate where the level should be when it is full. If you order 0.3 L of beer, it is quite obvious whether you got 0.3 L of beer.

Craig, this San Miguel is for you. -- Scott

Smart CarSmart Car

One of the things that surprises us on this trip to Europe is how small the cars are here. With gas around $4/gallon and high costs for insurance, licensing, and parking, many people living in cities in Europe don't even have a car. Those that do mainly have small models - perfect for negotiating tight city streets and squeezing the most kilometers per liter.

This two-seated 'smart car' (built by DaimlerChrysler in cooperation with Swatch) costs about $8,200 and gets 65 miles to the gallon on the highway. In comparison, the number-one selling vehicle in America, the Ford F-150, gets (at best) 21 miles to the gallon.

It's embarrassing to hear the Bush administration say that conservation is not a valid long-term energy policy. On the contrary, when you are burning finite fossil fuels, it's the ONLY valid long-term energy policy. A country that depends on cheap imported fuel to drive it's economy leaves itself very vulnerable. -- Scott

Barcelona CathedralBarcelona Cathedral

Barcelona has great nightlife, but to enjoy it you need to be prepared. We ate our main meal of the day around 2pm then relaxed, read, and napped until around six. Once we got up and showered, we would head out again to find a place for a light dinner, which was eaten between nine and eleven. After eating we would wander the city until late. Even at midnight it is common to see whole families strolling around the streets and plazas.

Walking around Barcelona one night I spent about 10 minutes trying to get a good photo of this church. To me the cathedral seemed to glow with Spanish history, but perhaps it was only the Rioja we had with dinner. -- Scott

Spanish CatholicismSpanish Catholicism

Religion fascinates me, as anyone who has read our earlier posts will have figured out. Churches, as the centers of religion accessible to the public, are especially interesting to me and I drag Karen into all the ones I can find. The history of the church in Spain is quite interesting and I determined to get to know it better while I was there.

This shot shows the choir stalls of the interior of a cathedral. -- Scott

Barcelona NightBarcelona Night

I have a wonderful Ottmar Liebert CD (contemporary Spanish guitarist) called "Barcelona Nights." This picture reminds me of track 1.

Barcelona is a lovely city to walk at night, especially in the Gothic quarter with its winding streets. This photo was taken in the heart of the quarter, near a piece of old Roman wall and the city's cathedral. -- Karen

Cider BarCider Bar

At this bar down one of the Gothic quarter's narrow, medieval streets, we tried some of our first olives, pata negra (an incredibly rich, marbled, cured ham), and Spanish cider. The floor was dotted with small wads of used paper napkins and covered in sawdust, both used to soak up the detritus of tapas nibbling and cider sipping.

In most places like these, the Spaniards stand at the bar or sit at small, crowded tables, ordering small plates of food miniscule glasses of beer, wine, or cider. They don't seem to linger too long in one place, and in general, drinking to get drunk isn't the goal. As you can tell from the soft mood lighting, the publicans don't expect people to stay too long. Fluorescent lighting aside, though, it's a wonderful system. You make the rounds, meet your friends, eat while you're drinking, and (hopefully) avoid overindulgence. -- Karen

Next Up: Gaudi Architecture

Copyright 2001
Scott & Karen Semyan