Barcelona has surprised us. What a wonderful, bustling city. It is so much busier than I imagined. The architecture is a combination of Renaissance and Baroque (influenced by Italy and France) and Modernism. The buildings are majestic, the streets wide and it has an open, light appeal. Like many European cities, the streets are lined with cafes and restaurants and it’s not uncommon to see a waiter with a tray full of drinks dash across the street to the restaurant’s tables on the sidewalk.
We have embedded ourselves completely in the European time zone. We dine at about 8.30 or 9 pm, which is early by European standards, go to bed late (those of you who know us are finding this hard to believe) and we sleep late. Our body clocks have settled well into this rhythm. Mind you, it is still a mild 26 degrees at 11 pm at night, so easy to be up and about.
Yesterday we headed down the famous, or should I say, infamous La Rambla street. This takes you through an old part of town and a meat and produce market resides here. We had read the trip advisor and website warnings about how to keep ourselves safe. Don’t wear shorts because you will look like a tourist. Everyone wears shorts in Barcelona! It is the most casually dressed city I have been to. No one dresses for dinner. Shorts, singlet tops or maybe a short lightweight dress and flat sandals or jandals are the standard dress any time of the day or night!
Don’t carry a backpack, or if you have to, carry it on your front. I’m sure this would make you look like a tourist but anyway, that was the advice. Don’t wear a bum bag (fanny pack) and if you take a handbag carry it across your shoulder with the bag in front. If you need to look at a map go and sit at an inside cafe to consult it.
With this in mind and some cash safely tucked in a money belt, we were hands-free, except for my paper shopping bag which held my essentials: glasses, small camera, tissues and wet wipes. I was sure we would pass as locals. We got to La Rambla and there were thousands and thousands of people strolling down it. It felt like being in Time Square, New York. People were dragging suitcases, wearing backpacks, holding cameras and consulting maps. I don’t think they read Trip Advisor.
La Rambla was underwhelming on many levels, but it was interesting to be part of the throng, anticipating a bag snatch or scam at any moment. There was nothing of real interest to see and the stalls sold junk and the shops were average. The market was frenetic and a highlight. The vibrant colour of the fruit and vegetables made the place glow. Everything was displayed so artistically that it felt a shame to purchase it and mess it up. The smell of the homemade sausage, Spanish ham and cheeses that made my mouth water. Chocolates, fudges and nuts were wrapped so masterfully that it was tempting not to open the packaging. It all came together in a psychedelic display.
At the end of La Rambla, we continued on to the beach passing a marina filled with yachts, tall ships and super yachts. In fact, there was one super yacht that got our attention. It was called Radiant and was so huge we Googled it when we got back to the hotel. Apparently, when it was built in 2009, it was one of the biggest superyachts in the world. It cost $US 280 million, has a helipad, pool, eight guest cabins and 40 crew. Before you get too excited, it’s not available for charter.
We arrived at the beach, along with about 200,000 other people. It was shoulder to shoulder. Not my idea of relaxing but the Europeans, and I’m guessing many tourists, were soaking it up. Any more than half a dozen people and I think a beach is crowded. We did have a paddle though and here the sand is hot and the sea warm. Quite a contrast to the Atlantic. With interest I observed that those women who go topless shouldn’t and those who should, don’t! We hope to catch a metro out to a quieter beach in the next day or so.
We went to the ‘Teatre Poliorama’ on La Rambla for a Spanish cultural experience. It was staged by the Barcelona Y Flamenco and called the ‘Gran Gala Flamenco’. The show started at 9.30pm, but like I said, we are into the swing of European time so it wasn’t a problem. I am glad we went but we felt it wasn’t as professional as some of the international shows we have experienced. However, maybe some of the things we thought unprofessional or casual were part of the experience but since it was all in Spanish we weren’t sure and it didn’t take away our enjoyment of the whole experience. The guitarist and percussionist were amazing. The male dancer did a solo. It was as if he was in a trance and I found myself getting lost in it too. The music and the pounding of the wooden heels on the floor were mesmerising. You could feel the passion and intensity drumming a beat inside you. I was completely lost in it. Quite bewitching.
Before we went to the show we had dinner close by. I decided the occasion was worth a dress and high heels….WRONG! I was way over-dressed. I think I was the only one amongst 50,000 people that had heels on. Clearly, merging into the crowds isn’t a strength of mine. What was entertaining, was watching the people mill around La Rambla as we ate. (I have been a people watcher for years.) Our restaurant was one floor up so we had a good view of the street.
We were able to witness a group of young men working their scam. It was fascinating. The police walked up and down so they dispersed into the crowd only to regroup later in the same place. We saw a young couple follow one of them and I was ready to race out and save them from a holiday disaster, but stilettos weren’t going to get me far. It was a great night of entertainment all round.
And on another note, I am amused by our ‘Do not disturb’ sign. In Spanish it reads ” Por favor no molestar”