Barcelona, Spain – March 16, 2011
This is another of my regularly scheduled trips to Barcelona. I am due to return to Madrid in two days, this Friday, at about 16:00. That will put me back in enough time to help my good friend, Ron, get his van out of the repair shop and get it home.
At one point in the journey, as the Renfe train was traveling along, it had to slow down from 300 k/hour (186 mph) to 150 k/hour (93 mph) because there was a stretch of several miles in which it had snowed. The temperature dropped to 4C (39F). It appeared there was up to two inches of snow. It was quite beautiful and quite unexpected. Regardless, at 150 k/hour, it was almost like crawling through the area.
The train arrived in Barcelona at about 15:30. Walking into the station from the train platform, I noticed there was a McDonald’s. My last meal that day was breakfast, so I decided to stop. It has been a very long time since I have eaten there. I must say, it really hit the spot. When I finished my meal, I stopped by an information booth and picked up a map of the city. Then I walked out of the train station and hailed a cab.
On the way to my hotel, the cab driver told me the economy in Barcelona is still very bad. He thought the unemployment rate is right around 21 percent. That is a big number. He also mentioned there are increased robberies happening. Most of those are drug-related. Regardless, he said there are still many tourists that come to Barcelona. He said Barcelona is the number five spot in the world for tourism. He got me to my hotel very quickly and he was very nice, so I gave him a 2€ tip (US$2.44). That seemed to have made his day. I was proud of myself that I understood all of what he was telling me since he was speaking entirely in Spanish. My command of Spanish gets a little better each day. As I have noted before, I am still not fluent, but I understand a lot of what I hear. I think it is just a matter of time before I really pick up the language. I cannot wait! That is something I have wanted to do for years and years.
I am staying at the Hotel Claris again, at Pau Claris, 150. It is overcast today with some intermittent sprinkles. Since I had such a late lunch, I do not think I will eat dinner. I will probably just walk around with my camera.
I ended up at a little street-side café called La Bodegueta, enjoying a café Americano. That is simply a Spanish espresso with some additional hot water added to increase the volume of liquid. I just sat there watching the world go by and taking photos. The tables and chairs for the café are in the median of the street. It is essentially at the corner of Rambla de Catalunya and Calle Provenca.
On my way to La Bodegueta, I stopped and took some photos of the apartment building that the renowned architect Gaudi designed, Casa Mila “la Pedrera.”
From Gaudi’s building, I walked to Passeig de Gràcia. It is by far the largest, busiest street in the area. It is also a very exclusive shopping street with stores such as Louis Vuitton and Channel. Somewhere along my path, I saw what looked like a good Italian restaurant. I will try to find that for dinner tomorrow night. For “dinner” that first night, I had a banana, an apple, and some Edam cheese. Those were just a few items I picked up at a little market just around the corner from the hotel. I just was not very hungry.
In the hotel on my first morning in Barcelona, I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal. I found the article “Spain Ramps up Job Efforts” very interesting if for no other reason than the statistics. It listed Spain’s unemployment rate at 20.4 percent. A quote read, “at more than 20% and rising, Spain’s unemployment rate is far and away the highest in the developed world.” That certainly confirmed what my taxi driver said on the way from the train station to the hotel.
When I returned to the hotel after work, I changed my shoes and slacks and went out for a walk. I ended up at the Cathedral de Barcelona. It is only about 10 blocks south of my hotel. It was a very large cathedral and there were some very beautiful parts. However, I still think my favorite cathedral is the one in Toledo. I think it is larger. Additionally, more of the cathedral in Toledo is open to the public.
For dinner, I went to the Restaurante Pomarada. It was particularly marginal. I had the Four Cheese Pizza. it was a thin crust pizza. I think I may have had a different opinion if I had gotten a pizza with meat. The good news is I was able to take some nice photos.