Day 21 (February 22, 2011)
Itinerary: Sleep in and play Wii, Purchase train tickets for tomorrow, Mirador Colom, Mark’s haircut, Picasso walking tour through city and museum, window shopping, dinner and Flamenco show.
Today feels like our last real day of vacation. After this we will be traveling, first to Marseille via train and then home to our respective countries. So, to celebrate, we decided to stay in and play Wii all morning. The tv in our orbital hotel room is the largest we’ve had this trip and the bed was very comfortable as well. We won’t be able to finish Kirby’s Epic Yarn on this trip, but we’ve had fun trying.
We emerged from the hotel around lunch time and first went in search of rail tickets. A few days ago we tried to buy our rail tickets to Marseille at the Spanish Renfe ticket office but were told that they were unable to sell us the French portion of the trip. Tourist information was not very helpful and could not give us the name of a travel agency on the premises, so we went back to the ticket office to try again.
Today’s ticket office attendant was incredibly helpful. He told us that we should buy our tickets at the next group of windows over. Our number was 297 and they were serving number 230! We were in for a bit of a wait, but we need to get this done, so we went to the cafeteria to find lunch/breakfast. After maybe 30-45 minutes we had our rail tickets in hand. I was able to ask for the tickets in Spanish, and answer the few preliminary questions, but when we finally purchased the tickets, our ticket guy went on and on about something. I didn’t know what he wanted but it seemed as if I could not pay by credit card. I started putting everything he might want in front of him, cash, credit card, passports, etc. We were intrigued to see him take both credit card and cash, but we did get tickets in return, so it must have worked out. It turns out that we could pay by credit for the Spanish tickets, but only by cash for the French tickets.
On the way to our next errand (Mark’s haircut), we stopped at the Mirado de Colom or a tall pillar in a roundabout on the coast dedicated to Columbus. A tiny elevator inside that held about 3 people took us to the top. I was actually quite amazed to find out there was a view at the top since it looked no bigger than the Egyptian obelisks we’ve seen in France and Italy that were solid. The lighting at this time off day was not optimal for seeing the statue of Columbus at the top, but he was up there.
The tourist desk helpers here were baffled when we asked them where Mark could get a haircut. We won asking a question they’d never gotten before. At first they thought we might be asking for a hat, but a little “snip, snip” on my part got them on Google looking for a spot. They pulled in a 3rd person that used to live in the area and we had a destination to head towards. Even better it was right near our meeting spot for our 4pm Picasso tour.
Mark was happy with his Italian cut, and he’s now happy with his Spanish cut as well. We realized we didn’t get a photo of the cut, so you’ll just have to imagine him with shorter hair. And now, with Mark’s head feeling lighter than air, we met our walking tour at Plaza Catalunya.
Barcelona Walking Tours took us on a 2 hour tour through the old part of Barcelona to point out all the buildings that were important to Picasso’s career, and then through the Picasso Museum here in town. The museum mostly has works from his early career and childhood as the biggest donation to the museum were all the paintings in his Barcelona home that his dad had saved. He painted on average 2 paintings a day from age 10 until age 93. It is really quite amazing. His father, also a painter and then an art teacher, felt from the time that Picasso was 9 that he would be a world-famous painter and worked hard to give him every opportunity possible to reach that goal. On the walking tour we saw several of the art galleries were Picasso had exhibits at age 16 and where several of his apartments were. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and we had a good experience on the tour.
At this point it was only 6pm and our dinner reservations were not until 9:15pm. So, we improvised. First we headed to the Museu de la Xocolata, or Chocolate Museum. Mmmmmm, Xocolata is their slogan. I tend to agree. Amazingly the museum had huge sculptures made of chocolate. I wouldn’t believe that chocolate sculptures would last for very long, but they must have done something to keep them. We skipped the actual museum part since they were closing soon and instead first watched the end of a chocolate sculpture class. They made airplanes, trucks, and other figures out of chocolate and left them out. I was able to take photos through the glass and one student saw me taking photos and brought over more chocolate statues for me to take photos of. =)
We hung out in the chocolate shop to eat our candy bars and smell the free smells until they kicked us out at closing time. Now we can say that we closed down a chocolate shop. Mmmmm, chocolate.
Time to wander and kill time. The direction we picked to walk turned out to be a good one for window shopping. Also, Mark found another Dr. Pepper to enjoy as we walked. We were highly amused at an advertised Inca shop that seemed to be full of stereotypical Native American items. The streets were crowded at this hour by both tourists and locals. The weather was down in the low 50s, so there was a chill in the air, but while moving around we stayed warm. Store hours are very interesting around here. In the afternoon shops and stores are closed for the siesta/lunch hour from about 1:30-4 and now later in the evening everything was open for business. Some places decide to close whenever they want to, others pick a day to be closed, and some places are open all the time.
Eventually we took the metro and wandered up Montjuic hill towards Olympic Village where our flamenco restaurant was located. Our reservations provided us free entry into the Olympic Village, or Poble Espanyol de Barcelona. It was originally built in the early 1900s for a World’s Exhibition and was kept and then later used as Olympic Village for the 1992 Olympics. One of the museums we would have visited if we had more time was the Olympic Museum here. At this time of night the Poble Espanyol was deserted. We felt alone in the world until a huge group of young travelers gathered and hung out near us for a while.
Entry to our restaurant was not until 9:15, but at 9 I was cold and ready to go inside. Luckily there was a little heated bar area to the side where we could wait. We had pre-ordered the tapas menu and had about 6 dishes of various tapas come to our table. There was a plate of Italian sausages, bread, cubes of very hard cheese, then some chilies that tasted very much like hatch chillies but were much much smaller, some battered and fried fish of some sort, and some french fries. With the crema de Catalonia (much like creme brulee) for dessert this was plenty of food. We were on the second level of Tablao de Carmen and had a great view of the flamenco show downstairs. Several singers, a guitar player, and several dancers entertained us for the evening. Overall, this was an excellent way to round out and end our vacation.
We walked home and arrived just before the doors closed at midnight. Tonight we pack and tomorrow we take about 3 trains back to Marseille. Happy Vacation indeed!