Had a bit of a lie-in this morning, as neither of us slept particularly well last night. Not only was the room fairly noisy (despite the ear-plugs) but it was warmer than we like it. So we didn’t get up until around 8.30am, and went out onto the tiny balcony for a vertiginous view of the street below.
I got showered and shampooed and dressed, ready for the day ahead. Then we put our phones in to charge while we went down to the lower ground floor for the dining room for breakfast.
There was a large array of breakfast items, including cereal, different breads and pastries, fruit, yoghurt, meats and cheeses and cooked items such as sausage, bacon and eggs. There was also hot tea and coffee, a selection of juices and a chilled bottle of Cava on ice, next to some flutes. It goes without saying that we had to sample the cava, mixing it in with our breakfast juice to make a Buck’s Fizz. 🙂
I had some ham, eggs, mushrooms and beans, washed down with good hot coffee and followed with a croissant and butter. We bemoaned the fact that we would miss out on our breakfast tomorrow morning, as the car was picking us up at 7.00am to take us to the airport. 🙁
Once we were fed and watered, we went down to reception and purchased a couple of tickets for the HOHO bus, and the receptionist helpfully pointed out on our map where the nearest bus stop was. There were two routes the bus could take; the green route around the eastern side of the city, or the orange route around the western side, where both routes converged for several stops in the centre. Each route took about two hours, so if you did both you would get four hours of touring around the city, not counting any stops. Whilst it was 30 euros a ticket, we still felt that was good value for money.
We walked to the bus stop, where we saw that our open-topped double-decker was already there, so we had to run the last 25 yards or so. We then took a seat on the upper, open deck; not only to have an unimpede view of the sights, but also so we didn’t have to wear a Covid-19 mask. Plugging in our ear-phones, we selected the number for the English commentary, and sat back to enjoy the journey. 🙂
We passed many landmarks, including the Gothic cathedral, the national theatre and the zoo. We also stopped briefly outside the Museo Taurino, which used to be the city’s Monumental Bullring until bullfighting was rightfully banned in 2012 on the grounds of being cruel (I personally find it horrific).
Soon we arrived at La Sagrada Familia again, where many people alighted from the bus, while there was a queue of people waiting to board. I took the opportunity to grab another photo from our vantage point on the upper deck of the bus.
A few minutes away from this famous cathedral we went past another amazing building, that contained an incredible frieze all along one side, all made with tiny mosaic tiles. Our commentary told us it was the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul) which was built between 1901 and 1930 and was a fully functioning hospital until 2009, when the new hospital opened next to it, before undergoing restoration for use as a museum and cultural center, which opened in 2014.
As the bus wended its way through the busy streets, we looked on, agog, at the amazing architecture. We were pleased we’d decided to do this tour as we were able to see much more than we could have done on foot; in addition, the commentary explained what you were looking at. We soon passed an interesting tower called La Rotonda (or Torre Andreu after the Catalan entrepreneur who commissioned it. It was completed in 1918 and has served a variety of purposes, including hotel, restaurant and wedding venue (it had a capacity of 500). It is most famous for the distinctive oriental pagoda on the top, which contains intricate mosaic work.
We also passed the unusual Casa Milà (or La Pedrera, or “stone quarry” due to its roughly-hewn appearance) which was the last private residence designed by Antoni Gaudi; it was built between 1906 and 1912. Since 2013 it has been the headquarters of the Catalunya La Pedrera Foundation which serves society to build a better and fairer future within a framework of direct quality, excellence and innovation. It certainly was a stand-out building.
Not long afterwards, we looked on our map and noticed we only had another 2 stops until we reached the point where both bus routes converged and, as it was nearly lunchtime, we decided we’d “hop off” at the Placa de Catalunya, and go and get something to eat and/or drink, which is exactly what we did.
The square was crowded with people, many of them weaving in and out of the pedestrians and traffic on the ubiquitous electric scooters. We found a bar/café and went inside and ordered a pint of freezing cold beer each; we weren’t really hungry yet as we had had a good breakfast. We then went upstairs onto a sort of mezzanine floor to use the restrooms.
Suitably refreshed, we took a slow stroll along towards the famous boulevard Las Ramblas. In fact, it is known as both La Rambla (singular) or Las Ramblas (plural, which is what I’ve always called it) and the word derives from an old Arab word ramla which means ‘sandy riverbed’. Indeed, that is how this grand old street started off – as a long, dried out river bed outside the walls of the Gothic Quarter.
There were lots of elegant shops, stalls and the well-known “living statues” – people who cover themselves in white, silver or gold paint and wear matching draped clothing and stand in a studied pose (very much like a statue), usually only moving when someone drops some money in the hat or other container in front of them. Personally I can think of easier ways to make a living; it can’t be much fun dressing up and standing in the hot sun all day for the few coins that people throw into your hat. 🙂
As we walked along Las Ramblas towards the harbour, we reached the Christopher Columbus statue I mentioned earlier. He is said to be pointing at the New World (America) so you’d expect him to be pointing west, but in actual fact he is pointing in a south-easterly direction. I think the sculptor thought it would be more effective to have the statue pointing out to sea, to emphasise the vastness of the oceans between the continents.
At this point we decided to wait for the bus again, in order to complete the orange route. We spotted a stop nearby and had about 10 minutes to wait. Then we made our way to the top deck, plugged in our earphones once again, and settled back to enjoy the the commentary and the many great sights and sounds. Near the port was the massive and elegant Customs House (Duana del Port de Barcelona); we also passed the impressive Montjuic National Palace as well as the Olympic Park (built for the 1992 summer Olympics). Of course, no tour around the city would be complete without mentioning FC Barcelona, or Barça as they are known locally, and we snapped a quick photo as we passed Camp Nou, the official stadium where they play.
There aren’t as many photos from this half of the tour; at one point I actually wanted to view the sights for myself, without having to look at them through my phone screen.
Once we arrived back at our starting point, we alighted from the bus and took a slow stroll back to the hotel. Already we’d done nearly 10,000 steps; despite spending over four hours on the bus in total, it’s amazing just how much walking you do. 🙂
It was after three o’clock when we arrived bath at the Hotel Ciutadella, fairly hot, sweaty and tired. Opening our balcony doors on both sides of the room to let in some air, we crashed out on the bed and enjoyed an hour’s power nap, before I got washed and changed spent some time relaxing and pottering around.
We decided we’d go to Lennox’s pub again tonight in time for happy hour starting at 5.00pm, so once again we left the hotel and made our way to the square where the pub was situated on the corner (we were starting to find our way around now!). Inside, I enjoyed their House Cocktail, which consisted of whisky, sour mix and ginger ale, in a large glass with lots of ice. It was really quite refreshing, so I had to have another one – they were half-price after all. 🙂
We were then ready for something to eat now, so we wandered around a bit until we found Milk Bar and Bistro again (where we’d been last night). Requesting a table for two, we perused the menu while enjoying a mojito each; Trevor selected a dish called “drunken prawns” which was king prawns cooked in garlic and butter and served with a delicious side sauce and some tortilla wraps; he said they were very tasty.
I enjoyed a chicken and bacon Caesar salad and there was certainly lots of it! You wouldn’t think it would be impossible to eat a whole salad but in this case there was just so much crisp lettuce and dressing I couldn’t eat it all, delicious though it was. 🙂
We washed our meal down with further mojitos and cava and beer, and really enjoyed the lively, friendly ambience in the pub. Certainly somewhere to revisit when we are next in Barcelona (whenever that may be).
Around 10 o’clock we reluctantly decided we’d have to return to the hotel and finish up our packing, as we had a very early start in the morning – the car was coming to pick us up at 7.00am to take us to the airport. 🙁
Once again, another amazing and wonderful holiday had come to an end. But we didn’t have long to wait until the next one… 🙂