August 17, 18 and 19, 2021
Well, I guess I ended up leaving y’all hanging by not blogging, with my last entry being when I feasted around Santiago de Compostela upon completion of my most recent pilgrimage along the Camino Norte… I was spent in every way and it was all I could do to get myself to the cool down phase of my time in Spain, that being Barcelona for a quick final two days. I LOVE Barcelona and thought I might branch out to some new sites, yet I filled my schedule going to my favorites that I couldn’t bear to miss. Writing for conclusion was on my mind, and there it stayed. So, to wrap thing up a bit, here is a whirlwind look into my “goodbye” to Spain and reentry into The United States and my home state of Washington. Fun Fact, Barcelona was home to the 1992 Summer Olympics!
I was happy to travel to the airport in the company of four of my fellow pilgrims from the Wayfinding Academy of Portland, Oregon. A fifth peregrino went in an earlier taxi at O Dark Thirty with a student flying out to Madrid. We had issues right off the bat at 6:30 a.m. when our cab just Did Not Arrive! We called three times being assured it would only be ten more minutes each time. After nearly a half hour we went around the corner to a bus stop that some of us had used in the past and continued to wait. Ultimately two of us joined with Oscar, who invited us to share his taxi as he could see we were starting to panic. He saved some fare and we felt relieved!!! And he was super nice – a Venezuelan who has been living in Miami the last 20 years and was going to visit his dad in Madrid briefly before heading home to the USA. We shared Camino stories – his reminiscent of the Camino Frances the past thirty plus days. Our other two still had a struggle getting their taxi and eventually joined us in a VERY LONG LINE at the airport. All’s well that ends well because we made it through the line and security on time to our 9:00 flight. (And, it turns out the aeropuerto bus no longer stops at the corner at which we were waiting!)
Once in Barcelona I then shared another taxi with two of my comrades who were also staying in the Gothic district. I thought I knew my way around pretty well, but I never quite got my bearings and what should have taken me twenty minutes turned into an hour as I made my way to the H10 Catalunya Plaza Boutique Hotel. What else is new? If there is a longer way, I will find it… The other H10 hotel at which I have stayed my past four visits and LOVE was not open as they had hoped, so this was a new place for me. The location is only about thirty blocks over from the other and right on the popular Plaça de Catalunya.
“This lively square is the heart of Barcelona and it’s beating strongly. A favourite meeting point, it’s also the geographical space that separates the districts of Ciutat Vella and the Eixample. Steeped in history, the Plaça de Catalunya is the nerve centre of the Catalan capital. The Plaça Catalunya, with its large shopping centres and department stores, is constantly teeming with people. It is Barcelona’s most central area and a favourite meeting place for locals and visitors. It also connects the Eixample and the old town. The plaza was opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1927 and covers an area of 5 hectares. The site was formerly an open piece of land located in front of the gates to the walled city. The architects Pere Falqués, Puig i Cadafalch and Francesc de Paula Nebot were involved in its planning, and it also features sculptures by such well-known artists as Clarà and Llimona. There are six sculptural groups around the plaza: they represent the four Catalan capital cities, wisdom and labour. On one corner of the plaza you can see Josep Maria Subirachs’ monument to the president of the Catalan Government, Francesc Macià. When the city was preparing for the 1929 International Exhibition, some of new Barcelona’s most luxurious hotels, bars and theatres were built around the plaza. Almost none of them survive, except for the memory of names such as the Maison Dorée, the Colón and the Suís.” (barcelonaturisme.com)
I was extremely lucky to be able to check in early at around 12:30! So I completely unloaded my backpack, set up a laundry line to complete the drying process of three pair of socks that didn’t reach that desired state at our last Airbnb and set out to renew my love affair with this fine city! I know some people are put off at having to wear a mask while out and about, though honestly, I truly forget I have it on. As it was in Madrid and Santiago de Compostela – and really, in all of the bigger towns on the Camino, easily 98% of everyone was wearing them as well.
I walked by the music hall in which I have been fortunate enough to enjoy two wonderful performances previously, once Handsome Hubby even joined me! Unfortunately it is only open for tours at the time being. Looking upon the beautiful exterior though was very pleasurable for me. “The Palau de la Música Catalana is an architectural jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau, the only concert venue in this style to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (4th December 1997), which today represents an essential landmark in the cultural and social life of Catalonia. Moreover it represents a symbolic emotional heritage for a whole people who identify with its history.” (from the website visits.palaumusica.cat where you will find an Astounding gallery and design/embellishment descriptions.)
I also went by two of my favorite markets for the visual thrill of the fresh displays and excitement that the crowds bring. La Boquería was humming!!!! “The Mercat de Sant Josep de La Boqueria is the most famous food market in the city. It’s location along La Rambla and over 800 years of fame and popularity have made this mercat an official landmark in Barcelona. Unless you’re a big fan of crowds, you’ll want to arrive early in the morning so you can stroll the many isles in comfort. You’ll find everything here – seafood, meat, fresh produce, cheese, oils, wines, and even a few tapas bars (if you can get a seat). (citylifebarcelona.com). I bought some cheese, figs, an avocado, some tomatoes and spinach.
And then I was on to Handsome Hubby’s favorite, Santa Catarina Market. Unfortunately, it was getting late in the day and most of the stands were closed or cleaning up. “This is the food market building near to Barcelona’s Cathedral. It is a interesting building that caused a lot of controversy when it was first constructed. However, people have grown to love it – as is often the case with architecture, the buildings that spilt opinions the most are the most successful and legendary in the long run. One issue that I have with the building is the sense that perhaps it was designed more as a postcard photo rather than being designed to be practical. The colourful mosaic roof is the building’s most distinctive feature and it cannot be witnessed from the ground. However, folds in the roof give glimpses of the distinctive pattern.” (barcelona-tourist-guide.com
On my way back “home” I walked by the truly beautiful cathedral. I have seen it so many times, yet I never tire of its unspoken glimpse into history and powerful, striking presence. Construction of this magnificent Gothic Cathedral began on May 1, 1298, on the site of a Romanesque temple, was generally completed in 1448 and receives three million visitors a year. “The Barcelona Cathedral and the surrounding Gothic Quarter are a delightfully preserved Medieval part of Barcelona. The cathedral, constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, took about 150 years to finish. The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona. Don’t miss the Insta-famous Carrer del Bisbe and remains of the squared Roman Wall.” archdaily.com
I had a delicious hake fish (merloza) with some peas and a potato puree just down the street from my abode and then decided to call it a day. And, I managed 10.4 miles on this day – not bad for a non Camino holiday!
The next morning I tried to talk myself out of it with no success. I just had to get back to the beach! So I walked down the happening La Rambla, to the waterfront, beyond the HUGE 197’ cast iron statue of Christopher Columbus (constructed for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona in honor of CC’s first voyage to the Americas) and over to the Pt. Vell Marina. My surrounding were lively with stunning boats and yachts moored as far as my eyes could see and many people out enjoying the sunshine. I kept walking until I got to Barceloneta Beach to find easily a hundred folks and their blankets, mucho exposed skin and body builders working out in a designated area that reminds me of Venice Beach, California. I chose to plunk myself down right there and have my feast of figs, veggies, bread and hummus. I may have taken a brief nap…
The long walk back was enjoyable and again I went by Mercat de Santa Catarina hoping to revisit La Torna, a favorite spot for counter dining while watching the chefs prepare delicious fresh food. I wasn’t really hungry, but thought some tapas could help me recreate the vibe of several times past. Darn, it was closed up and I was truly disappointed!
Back to the H10 for a quick freshen up and then it was out again on the peds (feet!) to get my COVID-19 test required for reentry back into the United States. It was only a mile and a half to my destination but it seemed like forever in the hot sun and muggy afternoon. I did stroll by the “Block of Discord” which is some jaw dropping architecture, for sure! “Barcelona’s La Manzana de la Discòrdia is home to three extravagant—and extravagantly different—buildings. Built within 8 years of each other, by three leading architects, at the request of three rich city barons, these buildings boggle the eyes and mind. One can’t help but wonder what the barons were trying to prove.” Check out untours.com for more on these structures plus some really great photos!
Walking through the Eixample neighborhood, I happened upon a landmark I had also found in past visits. “Antoni Gaudi’s ‘Casa Mila’ (La Pedrera) is regarded as Antoni Gaudi’s most iconic work of civic architecture due to its constructional and functional innovations, as well as its ornamental and decorative solutions, which broke with the architectural styles of his day. For Gaudi, La Pedrera represented the most advanced approach to a building on a chamfered street corner in the Eixample in Barcelona. It consists of two blocks of apartments, each with its own entrance, structured around two large interconnected courtyards with ramps down to the garage for vehicles.” “Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926) is a world-famous architect who transcended his own era and the architectural styles of his day. Original in his thinking and the approaches he adopted, he was working at the height of the Modernisme movement in Catalonia at end of the 19th and early 20th century. Unique and remarkable, he and his work defy classification.” (lapedrera.com)
My hotel had an Amazing Rooftop bar and four of my Camino comrades still in Barcelona joined me for a fun night of refreshments and reminiscing! Today’s total walking amounted to eight miles!
I will mention here just for the record, that in my opinion THE MOST AMAZING SIGHT (and site) in Barcelona is Sagrada Família, another Antoni Gaudí MASTERPIECE!! I have been twice before and really, would never tire of going again and again, yet I just didn’t have the available time. Construction began in 1882 with hopes it will be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death. It defies description and is absolutely mind blowing, combining “gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms”. (wikipedia)
Getting home was hellacious! I left my hotel at 5:00 a.m. for my 7:30 flight and though the lines were not long, they were slow. I saw several people turned away for inadequate paperwork or lack of the proper COVID-19 tests. I flew comfortably to London Heathrow and had to go through the whole, slow thing again. Then I had a five hour layover. Originally I was to fly direct from there to Seattle, with only a two hour layover, but a couple weeks before leaving, British Airways cancelled that flight and added a leg to Dallas, getting me home to Seattle at 10:30 p.m. UG! I guess if you are a shopper, the Heathrow Airport could provide entertainment – not this traveler.
I had a two hours between my Dallas arrival and flight out to Seattle, but between waiting for my backpack to take through customs, and traveling what seemed miles from my arrival terminal to departure, I barely caught my flight, being one of the last to board an already pretty full flight. And though I paid extra for a “Premium” with Alaska Airlines, I was squeezed between two people, one of whom had her bags half into my section and in the aisle much of the flight. A few months ago buying a Premium fare would ensure you an unfilled seat between – not anymore.
I was SO HAPPY to be done with the many hours of flying, sad to leave Spain and the Camino yet relieved to be home. Then came the discovery of my missing backpack and about an hour of hanging around the airport filing paperwork on its not showing up and finally, another adventure was in the books. Well, I guess you might count the additional week it took to recover my bag, though I was super happy to have it come along! Nothing of real value, just super comfy clothes with lots of memories in every fiber!