May 07, 2009


Funicular Tower in Port Barcelona

I cannot even begin to tell you the things that went wrong in the 24hours before we arrived in Barcelona, but these are as nothing compared to our arrival in Barcelona.

The flight by Jet2 from Leeds Bradford was perfect, as ever, and I managed to take a little sleep to try and make up for the two lost nights of sleep in UK (don't ask!). Bagagge was speedily collected, we made our way to the mainline station and caught the 19:38 for Estacio Sants. On arrival at Sants we took the long walk into the Metro system correctly arriving at the L3 platform in the direction of Drassanes our intended stop. All is well, but quickly to change!

The train arrives and is crowded, and there is great turmoil as people embark and disembark. A man close to me drops his mobile phone onto the floor and it is broken. He tells me (in Spanish, Catalan or some other lingo) that my foot is on part of his phone, but I dont see it and he tells me again. Then he leaves the train quickly just before the doors close and everybody in the train shouts something at me "your monnai". We don't understand, we think we must have the wrong train ticket. And then I feel in my pocket and there is no wallet.

My trousers have very deep pockets, much deeper than normal, so he must have got his hand into my pocket a long way to get out my wallet. But now it is gone. Many people on the train try to help us, but we cannot understand. Eventually a woman speaking English tells us we should go to Placa de Catalunya Polizia, so we do this.

We enter the Polizia and tell our story, but they cannot believe us; it NEVER EVER EVER happens in Barcelona. It must be a FIRST time that a pickpocket has happened in Barcelona. I try to joke here; the Polizia is soon filled with people of all nationalities telling similar stories, some of them in tears.

I have one urgent priority; to contact my card insurer and get my cards stopped. This is eventually done, only delayed by other people using the phone to make the same call - they should have a hotline from this place. The Polizia try to make us use a phone which will be charged to a credit card, but I insist that I have a UK phone number that is reverse charge.

I am fortunate that my passport was in my other pocket. I also keep a second set of credit cards in my luggage, and with these my emergency phone numbers and membership details.

We stayed at Polizia Catalunya for about two hours telling the story at length. I described the thief in much detail, and eventually they showed me 50 photos and I instantly picked this man out. He wasn NOT attractive! When they showed more photos of the same man, it was definitely this man. A long statement was taken all relayed by Translator. I explained how this happened, and then stood up and enacted the whole drama. All made more entertaining because the translator had to repeat everything. When I re-enacted the man jumping off the train there was applause from everyone in the room and I was asked to encore of this part for their amusement.

Eventually documents were signed and we were free to leave.

So we walked the full length of Las Ramblas with all our luggage, finding our hotel by using TomTom. Those of you who have been to Barcelona will know how many drunks and how many prostitutes (they do not understand it when I ask "Do you have a brother?") we pass on this supposedly elegant street.

Rambla de Mar (New Bridge)

The Aparthotel Gutenberg is fine, a good room with balcony, kitchenette, bath and shower and a very good breakfast.

I begin today thinking that things can only get better, but then I consider that I still have some credit cards, a passport, a camera, this computer, so perhaps today I will lose some of these. Bradford almost seems tame compared to Barcelona.

I forgot to mention that whilst we were at Polizia Catalunya the officers had to describe my appearance and there was some disagreement as to whether my trousers were grey, brown, or maroon with almost everyone in the room offering some opinion.

There was no doubt, however, that my lilac shirt matched my lilac socks, and there was some appreciation of this fact across the room. i offered that it wasn't only the socks and shirts that matched, and there was a steady realisation that I must be referring to a garment not yet visible. Yorkshire humour is so much better when it is repeated, as was necessary for the Spanish/Catalan officers in the room.

My description was important because they planned to look at the video tapes of the platform at L3 Sants to spot this pickpocket. It should be possible as we were able to give very precise timings and locations along the platform.

These Lobsters and Crabs were still moving

Today we decided to get some supermarket provisions for the next few days and discovered a CarreFour at the top of Las Ramblas. After checking that Tesco Visa was acceptable (of course we have no cash now) we loaded enough goods onto the belt to fill two large rucksacs. As the belt stopped whizzing our goods onto the paid area I offered my credit card and then was asked to produce my passport. Having been robbed only half a day earlier of course I had left my passport locked in my hotel safe. No sale!

Apparently in Spain you can only use a credit card with photo identity, but you dont need a PIN number. We had no choice but to leave our rucksacs and then walk the full length of Las Ramblas to collect our passports from the hotel and then walk back to CarreFour and finally walk back with our provisions. You can imagine the pain in my foot now as I sit here typing this message. I don't mention that my Doctor is already trying to give me two weeks off work so that my foot will recover; this holiday can only worsen my Plantar fasciitis.

A Tall Ship in Port Vell, Barcelona

Hey Ho. After a little rest and recovery Juris is planning an expedition, and I am checking my insurance policy to see whether I can return by air ambulance - at least this transport system should be free from pickpockets.

Rose Winow on Sagrada Famililia

May 06, 2009


I am typing this during an interval at our hotel. We've just cooked fish from the Boqueria market, green beans, macaroni tricolor, served with a box of tomato sauce.

We are recovering from a Gaudi expedition. We set off to do La Sagrado Familia (sagrado is a kind of beetle) but got confused at Metro Estacio Diagonal when it seemed impossible to transfer lines. Hence we found ourselves facing Casa Mila and decided to tick that one off straight away.

Good idea, it is a delight and we had a leisurely stroll around its rooftop taking in its many features and vistas.

From there we could see the proximity of the Beetle Church and decided to walk there. We paused at a pavement cafe when offered a Coffee and Sandwich for 2.50 - the gave me tea and cake for the same money. Not only a bargain but very good too.

Sagrado Familia is often described as something of a tourist nightmare with massive queues etc. It wasn't. We entered without queing and enjoyed a leisurely stroll. Even the queue for the lift was only about 20minutes, but we did head for the one at the back of the church by the Rosary Cloister. Our tour of the turrets was calm and unhurried and we felt no pressures.

Many will know how I dislike modern architecture, but Gaudi is something else. What a pity his name is so alike the English word "Gaudy".


Not strictly true, as the rain in Spain falls also on Montjuic. Our excursion to see the magic fountains only discovered water falling from above and without music or lights.

Having read definitely that during April the magic fountains perform on Thursday and Friday night, and having checked with young Mario on the Hotel Recepcio that Magic Fountains would perform tonight it was all a lie. Mario also told me that it would not rain in Barcelona this night, but even as we stepped outside of Aparthotel Gutenberg the first drops were darkening the pavement. I don't like nowty lads, whatever their nationality.

So we wandered around gloomy Montjuic with everything just closing, and getting damper and damper. Shaun had told me of a little Park in Spain, which sparing you all Shaun's graphic Barnsleyese, was a "Parc di Pooch Poo Poo". Well we came across one of those at Montjuic, the Parc Miro. Poor Miro could not feel satisfied that he would be immortalised by one of his works standing in a dog toilet. There was no grass at all in this parc, and although this could all be by design, I am convinced that there was supposed to be grass and it had all succumbed to dog wee and excrement.

But Parc Miro was not the only dog toilet in Barcelona, as we found the grass space facing Sagrada Famiale to be very pooey, and the same for Parc de la Ciutadella. But I suppose a Dog's gotta do what a Dog's gotta do!

We abandoned the fountain expedition and headed to Placa de Catalunya. I am now extremely suspicious of this Metro network, and quite ready to use extreme violence on anyone who tries to intefere with me! Anyway we made it to Placa de Catalunya intact, only ever threatened by umbrella salesmen and the massing hordes who were also seeking retail therapy. Much to the relief of my dwindling collection of credit cards, nothing could be found to meet Juris' fashion requirements, and even a tour of the seven floors of El Corte Inglese proved purchase free.

It was now approaching 22:00 so we adjourned to our hotel, taking fresh strawberries and cream whilst we watched "Little Britain in USA" on my 10inch Sammy. On waking this morning we find it has rained all night. It is not going to be a beach day.


Having declared that "it wouldn't be a beach day", that's exactly where we ended up!

With Juris in sole command of the guide book we set off through the rain walking past Port Vell and on to Barcelonata which is just as unattractive as the book proclaims. Not sure why we went there, but I don't question the choices of my partner.

Anyway, we soon found that our feet were treading sand and we'd reached the beach. Just as we sauntered sandward the sun also decided to push away the clouds and in a drying and brightening air the day looked up.

We ambled along taking in the many public sculptures and new architecture before we reached a new complex and Juris declared himself lost. I cranked up the TomTom and its satellites indicated we had reached Port Olimpic, and with that we were able to regain the guide book.

We headed for the Metro and disembarked at Placa de Catalunya to continue on foot.

Pausing to take in the public playing, philandering, provisioning, and probably pickpocketting. Our feet would be taking us up towards the Museum of Contemporary Art. On the way we grabbed a cheese baguette (probably called something else here) for E2.30 but it was enough for us both.

And then we happened on some back streets of Old Barcelona, and it was delightful to stroll scenically these side alleys, their frontages a chaos of shutters, balconies, laundry and other clutter (Look at Carrer de Lleo).

Glowing in purest white modern the simple smooth shape of MACBA contrasted colossally against the tall shadowed tenements of Old Barcelona. we Had reached the Museum of Modern Art.

Sometimes you just aren't lucky, and as luck would have it 2 of the 3 floors were closed for a change of exhibits, and the remaining exhibits would be closing at 15:00hrs. Perhaps 50minutes was enough of modern art anyway! Some of it was interesting, some of it looked like quick cheap daubs for a fast buck, but I can't remember any of it being particularly strange.

We headed onward to our next objective, and on the way enjoyed more Old Barcelona. On reaching the Catedral at Placa de la Seu we had entered the area known as Barri Gotic. This area of Barcelona still contains examples of Old Barcelona's Gothic heritage and it was quite a joy to explore the warren of tiny streets and places here.

There was street entertainment in many of the squares and there was no rush for us to be anywhere else.

With a painful foot I hobbled back to the harbour area for a quick re-visit to Rambla de Mar (the new bridge) where Juris and I managed to lose each other. But eventually we were re-united at Aparthotel Gutenberg where tea was cooked. Two kinds of fish, some tricolor pasta and a 'cheese sauce' made of natural yoghurt heated with sliced Edam cheese (don't try this at home folks) with the rest of yesterday's Strawberries.


Friday, May 1st had started out wet, and it ended wet as well but in a rather nice way.

A long day found us walking around most of Barcelona, but after rested and dinnered we headed up to Montjuic. Literally "Jewish Hill" it was a place where historically the Jewish people were allowed to live in days before Ghettos and before Barcelona spread onto reclaimed land that once had been sea. Nowadays Montjuic has been reclaimed for all Barcelona as something of an exhibition and entertainment zone.

There is still an old Baroque Palace on top of the hill, not sure what it is or why, but the only thing that really matters is the 'Magic Fountains'. Dazzling displays of arial acqua lit with vivid colours dances for 45 minutes to a spellbound audience, eventually concluding with Freddy Mercury singing "Barcelona". We was there, see the pictures, enjoy.

Before we reached Monjuic a Labour Day procession passed our hotel to the sound of drums beating, megaphoned chanting and much colour and banner/flag waving, shown here. Amusingly the procession was watched from above by Helicopter, and behind it followed a band of police motorcycles, roadsweepers and refuse carts, and an ambulance. It all looked a bit too controlled.

Today is Saturday, May 2nd and this is likely to be our last WiFi transmission from the lobby of Aparthotel Gutenberg


Saturday May 2nd was our last day in Barcelona, but since our flight was not due to take off until 19:20hrs, we still had a day to fill and headed for Parc Guell. This was a mistake.

It was a mistake to head to Gaudi's Parc Guell on a sizzling Spanish summer saturday when at least half the population of Spain, and most of the tourists within 1000miles also had the same idea. Crowded; just a little.

The pity was that much of the Gaudi architecture now lay behind or beneath the sunning masses who stood in front of it, sat on it, or otherwise covered it. Yes, I suppose Gaudi intended them to do exactly that, but it didn't help me to view it or photograph it. I gave up trying to photograph IT and chose instead to photograph THEM.

When I had had enough of tripping over kids in or out of prams, I suggested to Juris that we should head off somewhere else and he wanted to go to CaixaForum near to Espanya Metro.

The structure of CaixaForum was an old textile factory that had been turned into an exhibition space, and what a joy of red brick, pinnacles, and glass it was. The undulating roof space provided excellent views over sun-drenched Barcelona.

Inside we visited 3 exhibitions. The Mersad Berber. Retrospectiva was a slightly strange experience of almost life-size semi nude men and Horses! I don't mean that to sound disapproving because the work had a certain quality and a definite character. In time it could grow on me.

By contrast, Richard Rogers + Arquitectes. De la casa a la ciutat reinforced my intolerance of modern architects. I remember the Lloyds Tower opening in London and the Pompidou Centre in Paris and we were all told that this was 'Post-Modernism'. At the time we all nodded our heads and pretended to understand what 'Modernism' had been and therefore we knew what 'Post Modernism' was. But it was all tosh really, deep down we all thought the buildings had been constructed inside out and weren't at all good looking.

Last autumn I revisted the Lloyds Tower, now 20-odd years old and looking so much the worse for it. Downright tatty in my view, not cleaned (it would be impossible), and now standing shabbily in the shadows of that great glass penis known as 'The Gherkin' (you can see the Barcelona version 'Torre Agbar' here). I was pleased to see that about 60per cent of the Rogers projects never reached construction stage, and I became even more cynical when reviewing his projects and uncovering his wilful abuse of each site for his own purposes.

Gaudi is a God by comparison. Organic, aesthetic, original, and using earth-borne materials and biological forms in place of the dead stuff and broken pieces of spacecraft that Rogers uses.

A dash back to Aparthotel Gutenberg to collect luggage, and then BCN Aeropuerto bound for LBA on and home to Bradford.