Saturday, June 08, 2013

Barcelona log (3): Rain stopped play

We woke to grey skies; during breakfast, we could see that light rain was falling which later turned into a torrential thunderstorm with lightning. It seemed that our morning plans were going to be postponed, but fortunately the rain eased off later and we were able to exit the hotel. I was wearing my bought-in-Switzerland rain coat and bought-in-Switzerland shoes.

Our first, belated, port of call was the Els Encants Vells flea market. We took the metro to the Glories station and emerged to see what seemed to be a wilderness in the centre of Barcelona, next to a discarded circle (or placa). There were few people about, but we followed them and after two or three minutes arrived at the market which was already doing a roaring trade, despite the weather.

This is the sort of place which my wife loves and that I strongly dislike, or as I put it "if you're looking for something specific, you won't find anything, but if you're not looking for anything, you'll find plenty". There were basically two kinds of stalls: those situated around the edges were 'professional' stores, selling mainly hardware items or clothing, whereas those in the middle were the 'garage sale' type of stall, selling a tremendous variety of bric'n'brac.

After a few minutes in the market, the weather had improved greatly and I was able to remove my rain coat and dry off in the sunshine. Amongst the first items which I noticed were power supplies for old computers which were glistening with rain drops (and so probably useless) as well as mini DV cassettes for our 'old' camcorder. Needless to say, I didn't buy anything. We arranged a meeting place and I went off to read a book on the Kindle.

After about an hour, my wife turned up at the meeting place after having enjoyed herself but strangely after having bought only two small items. We then returned to the metro and travelled a few stops to the Placa Catalunya station, which seems to be a fairly central plaza with huge fountains in the middle. We stopped for lunch (fish and chips) in a restaurant which turned out to be the Hard Rock Cafe (we sat outside and to one side which is why we weren't aware of the restaurant's identity initially).

After lunch, we went into one of the huge department stores: I was specifically looking for a replacement battery for our new camcorder, as the one which comes with the camera doesn't last long enough. Not finding what I wanted, I then wandered onto La Rambla, which I knew contained a professional photography shop. Unfortunately, they didn't have a battery either but suggested a few more shops back at the plaza. For reasons that escape me, La Rambla is considered to be the main drag in Barcelona, but it doesn't do anything for me. The other shops too did not have the battery.

Trying to save some value for the day (possibly an unfortunate choice of words), we then boarded one of those 'explore Barcelona' buses. The idea is that one buys a ticket for 26 euro in the morning then spend the day riding the bus to a destination, disembarking, spending time at the destination, then waiting for the next bus, re-embarking, and so on. We were starting the trip at 5pm but had no intention of disembarking: the idea was more to see Barcelona from the street (as opposed to the metro). The round trip was fairly long (I believe nearly two hours) and we saw many places that we had already visited, including Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, the funicular at Montjuic, the port and even La Rambla, but also made acquaintance with new places such as the Olympic village and the zoo.

We then returned to the area of our hotel, had a light dinner, and rested for a few minutes before taking a taxi to the magic fountains at Espanya. The taxi was not because we did not know how to get there (we had been there the previous night but had not stayed) but because my wife was having difficulty in walking and there seemed to be too much walking involved. This is something which has to be seen in order to be believed - look at the photos at the linked website. It was also fairly crowded (as were most places in Barcelona), but because this was out in the open in a huge space, the crowd was not threatening - in fact, it was a very friendly crowd. We very much enjoyed this.

We took a taxi back to the hotel and fell into bed: it was already after 11pm and we had to be up early for the next day....

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