“I like snacks”

Today we woke up just after 8, much better than the previous two days.  Justin went out and got some water; even at 8 some of the local markets weren’t open yet.  We got ready at a leisurely pace, then started out on a walk with no particular path in mind.  We started by the Arc de Triomf and walked through this park area (Parc de la Ciutadella) towards the water.  Today it was thankfully sunny, and the dogs being walked today seemed much happier.  At the end of the park area was the entrance to the zoo, so we turned right and headed towards Mt Montjuic, which was directly in front of us (albeit quite a ways) down the main drag paralleling the shoreline.

After passing by the train station and a couple other items we made a right turn into the Gothic Quarter, meandering with no destination in mind.  We passed by the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, another very old church (this one from the 14th Century).  Looking up from the street, lots of clothes were drying outside, and it was interesting to see all of the people who’d put out umbrellas the day before to make sure the drying clothes wouldn’t get any wetter.  Most of the streets were very narrow, and very few people were out, still being only about 10 in the morning.  But then all of a sudden we came out in a big square (we think Placa Reial) that had tons of people shopping and eating brunch.  Coming out the southwest side of the square we were on La Rambla, so we decided to walk up the street to the local market, which we hoped would be open this morning.

Sure enough, almost all of the proprietors were at their stalls this morning, and the market was really crowded.  Crystal guided us to Bar Bouqueria, which she’d seen a lot of people sitting at the other night when we came through here.  In addition to the market stalls, there were also some areas that were filled with tiny restaurants, and this place having a lot of people was a good sign.  It was, like so many places around here, a tapas place, with a bunch of tiny snack items to choose from.  Crystal exclaimed “I like snacks.”  Don’t we all.  We ordered some padron peppers, tomato bread (recommended by the server), a meatball, some oxtail, and two cochinita pibil tacos – the bread, oxtail, and tacos were phenomenal.  We weren’t sure how bread with tomato sauce could be so good, but it was.  We also got some Sangria and casually enjoyed our morning.

After wrapping up brunch we walked southwest through the El Raval and El Poble-Sec neighborhoods, which were much more local, with folks just out enjoying their Saturdays.  Even just a few blocks from the market there were almost no tourists.  We went up a bunch of switchbacks and ended up at an area with a bunch of Futbol fields (Camp Municipal de Futbol de la Satalia), with a ton of little kids playing futbol.  Right near there we went up a dirt path uphill that ended right by the funicular for Montjuic.  From here there was a nice view over the city, plus some trees and picnic tables.

There was a long line for the funicular – apparently we weren’t the only ones that thought it’d be a good day to check out the view from the top.  We looked at Google Maps and it indicated we could theoretically walk rather than wait for the funicular, but our laziness won out.  It was worth it, as the views from the funicular itself were better than the views once we got out at the top.  We almost didn’t get out at the top.  The couple closest to the door – for some reason – wouldn't get out, and we almost missed the opportunity to exit before it headed back down.  Nobody was able to board the car that we disembarked. 

The top of the funicular was by Montjuic Castle, and there was an extra entry fee for that, so we just enjoyed the views of the outside of the castle and the views of the city instead.  The harbor area was just below us (well, far below us) to the east.  We started to head downhill, and on the main road in the park area was some sort of competition with people skateboarding, street luge-ing, and rollerblading down the steep hill, almost like a ski competition down a mountain.  From this park area there were some great views out over all of the city.  We got back on the funicular in the central station (where you can only get on going downhill, not get off coming uphill).  Heading back to the bottom station our car stopped a couple of times, perhaps because it was too windy.

At the bottom we walked back down the dirt path, past the futbol pitch, down the switchbacks, and went into the Parallel metro station, which was on the purple line.  We took the purple line straight to La Sagrada Familia for our tour of the inside.  We were a little early, so we walked around the southwest side for a bit.  The view from this side was better than two days prior, because today it was the afternoon when we visited and so the sun wasn’t in our eyes.  Even though the ticket office is on the southwest side of the complex, the entry is on the northeast side, where we showed our online tickets and got our audio guide. 

The first couple things on the tour were on the northeast side, the Nativity side, of the building.  There was a model of the completed building, currently due for 2026.  We’ll happily come back to see the finished product.  The outside of the building was amazing, and it had us re-thinking the most incredible things we’d seen on our travels.  We had given this some thought a few years ago, and at the top of the list was the Cuernos in Torres del Paine, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and the Hagia Sofia.  But the outside of La Sagrada Familia had us re-thinking that list. 

And then we went inside.  The list had a new leader.  There was stained glass everywhere, with the nativity side being more blue and green, the passion side being more red and yellow.  There were massive columns holding up the roof, with the columns branching out way above our heads, like giant trees.  Indeed, the columns were meant to look like trees, and there were different “kinds” of trees, with the largest having a reddish tint, and the others being either medium gray or light gray.  They were all made from different stones, and the reddish ones were from the strongest material.  Although the ceiling was incredibly high, it was purposely designed to be just shorter than Montjuic, so as to not “surpass nature.”

We walked around listening to the audio guide, taking photos, and staring in disbelief.  The audio guide was one of the better ones we’ve ever listened to, very interesting without being overly wordy.  It helped us understand what we were looking at, such as the “trees,” Pontius Pilate sitting in contemplation at what to do with Jesus, and many of the other items inside and out.  It also helped explain why the stained glass was more warm for the afternoon sun and more cool for the morning sun.  Up at the front there was a crypt underneath, and there was also an area for people to pray, as this is actually a functional Cathedral as well.  Since we had the audio guides, we wandered around on our own until we were both finished listening to everything. 

When we finally saw each other, we had the following conversation:

Justin: “You know how we were discussing the most impressive thing we’d seen in nature, and also best man-made?  I’m not sure how anything could top that.”
Crystal: “I don’t really know how I’d describe that to anyone”
Justin: “Just go”
Crystal: “I thought the outside of that was the most impressive thing I’d ever seen; then I went inside”

We figured at this point, particularly in the late afternoon on the last day of our trip, we shouldn’t go see anything else, as nothing could possibly measure up.  So we just grabbed some sangria across the street at one of the corner bar/restaurants (Buenas Migas).  We were lucky enough to snag a table with some shade and an unimpeded view of the passion side of the building.  We did some people watching, some “trying to park the car” watching, and some vehicle towing watching.  Crystal mentioned she hoped none of the cars getting towed belonged to one of the couples we met on the tapas tour the first day in Barcelona, who had (stupidly) rented a car to get around town.

But this gave us the epiphany that we might be able to do the tapas tour tonight.  We had the time, we had nothing else planned, and we didn’t get to finish the first time.  Crystal checked and they had availability, so we booked it on the spot.  So we headed back to our hotel on the street having the Arc de Triomf (Passeig de Sant Joan).  As we approached Placa de Tetuan, we saw this statue of a man with a weird nose, like a deformed beaknose or something.  But when we got in the plaza and saw the statue from the front, we realized there was no deformity, it was an illusion from the side – it was a little girl on a man’s side that, from the side viewpoint, protruded out right where his nose was.  The statue was for a notable doctor and politician, Robert Bartomeu.  Just before we got back to the hotel we stopped at the Super Meerkat (the markets all said super merkat) and got some water, Coke Zero, and cured meat.  Back at the room we enjoyed Anniversario con Coke Zero, cured meat, and uploaded today’s photos.  Believe it or not, we came to the conclusion that none of the La Sagrada Familia photos do it justice.

Eventually we headed over to the meeting spot for the tapas tour take two.  Our guide was not Fin, which was disappointing, but Enrique was great in his own right.  Even though we met at La Puntual again, we actually started the tour at this other place (Set de Born).  The group was totally different than the other night, with 6 Aussies, and a couple with a French man and German woman.  They were also closer in age to us, not a bunch of newlyweds.  The Patatas Bravas at the first place were not as good as La Puntual’s, but that was admittedly a high bar.  We went to the same second place on Wednesday, Eldiset.  We, particularly Justin, were in a much more chilled out mood tonight here.  The third place (Bar del Pla) had dinner, with a bunch of shared plates – fried artichokes, wasabi mushroom salad, iberian secret with quince and pine nuts, marinated mackerel, "marinera" mussels, beef cheek braised in Montsant wine, bread and tomato and torrija (similar to french toast). 

The two of us, one of the Aussie couples (people who run marathons – 2:58 and 3:26 at the London marathon a few days earlier), and the French and German went out after dinner.  We tried to go to Paradiso – a famous cocktail bar that Enrique told us about – but the line was way too long.  We next went to a less crowded place where we walked upstairs, found a table, sat down, but then walked out before being served.  Apparently it was “too” empty.  So like Goldilocks, we found a third place that had a happy medium.  We stayed there for a while, chatting.  The two of us got maracuya caipirinhas.  We wrapped around midnight, which was probably for the best, since we had to pack early in the morning.  We had a very short walk back to hotel, only 4 minutes.  When we got back, Justin made a rum and coke zero, gave it to Crystal, and immediately fell asleep.

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