Friday, 26 April 2013


Trip continued:

Wednesday Day 14 - Lori's plan of sleeping near the Rome airport went from good to great when the airline moved our flight up three hours.  Wednesday morning we still rose before the farmers and were standing outside the B&B in the pitch black pre-early morning when our shuttle picked us up and dropped us off at our terminal.  The checking in and flight was uneventful so after a few hours we are descending into Spain as the sun struggles to rise into the sky.  Hola Espana!

Free style graffitti in Barcelona.  Quite common sight here.
We bought our return trip Aerobus fares to get from the airport to the city centre and boarded the bus for our ride to Barcelona.  While en route Lori spies a closer walking route to the apartment office where we need to pick up our keys so we get off there and navigate to the office.  We pick up the keys and set off for our ten - fifteen minute walk (which was actually more than twenty minutes but we love rolling beat up luggage over cobble stone streets by now so it's all good) to our apartment.  I'm not sure what it is with this trip but this is another "we have to walk down that alley?" apartment that turns out to be nice on the inside.  I'll spare you the pictures as it was nice but nothing special; it's a DailyFlats Ramblas place if you are curious.  The only downside was not being able to find the clothes washing machine until we finally talked to a knowledgeable person at the office who said it's on the balcony.  Open the balcony doors to find a side door and viola!  Strange that it was out there we thought but maybe that's a Spain thing.  But we have that now so we were good on clothes for the rest of the trip. 

First priority - brunch.  We had a snack at the Rome airport at oh-dark-30 so we needed a little more before we start walking the streets.  We weren't sure how it worked at first but did end up picking a few dishes to try.

Dana Johnson Pic - Tapas. Small samples that are expensive.  Tasty but not really any better than elsewhere in Europe.  The food in Barca was average which was disappointing. 

La Rambla (Wiki link) street, the main pedestrian/vehicle street running from the waterfront to the city centre.  We were only a couple of blocks from this and a Metro stop which was convenient.  La Rambla was always busy. 
A few things stood out about Barcelona.  Great (sunny and warm) weather, people wearing flip flops and sunglasses (you have to live in England to understand why that is an oddity), LOTS of younger women wearing three inch heels/dressing up, and colourful artistic displays.  For the last item you have to think of Antoni Gaudi (Wiki link), an amazing architect who blended geometry, colours and nature into his work.  I say amazing but am actually not exaggerating as seven of his Barcelona works are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  They are La Pedrera/Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Palau Guell, La Sagrada Familia, Colonia Guell, Casa Vicens, and Parc Guell for the curious.  I bring this up since our first stop on La Rambla was Palau Guell.  I was curious about Gaudi's "rank" according to others so I did a search of ten most famous architects and the How Stuff Works website listed the top ten as Michelangelo (worked on St. Peter's Basilica), Mimar Sinan (Turkey), Sir Christopher Wren (London including St. Paul's Cathedral), Louis Henri Sullivan (early skyscraper designer in Chicago and mentor to F.L. Wright), Le Corbusier (buildings all over world including NY U.N. Headquarters), Antoni Gaudi, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Lake Shore Drive buildings), I. M. Pei (JFK International Airport Terminal & Louvre Glass Pyramids), Frank Gehry , and Frank Lloyd Wright (worked under Sullivan from the list).  I don't recognise all of the names but have seen works by half of the people on this list so I think Gaudi is in pretty good company even though the list seems to be a little slanted towards Modern Architecture.    
Palau Guell (Wiki link) was one of Gaudi's houses and sort of on our walking path so we stopped to look at the outside.  After looking at the outside and checking on the admission prices we decided to tour it as the kids were free here.  Way to go kids!  The Gaudi houses were expensive from my pre-trip planning but after finding out this place was 24 Euros for the four of us I decided it would be worth the stop.  The prices varied at all of the houses and the group discount pass would have bled us dry so that wasn't an option for us.  As with most of his houses this was designed for a wealthy family (the Guell's) who paid him to create a unique house.  Mission accomplished.

The entry door were designed with one being the horse carriage entry and the other the horse carriage exit.  Gaudi also designed doors to allow light in while the people inside could see out but the people outside could not see out in.  He accomplished this by the iron bars placement and angles which was very impressive.
The upper face of the building.
The carriage house and horse stables.

Elegant swan wood carving.
A lot of rooms on the second level were dark because of the outside window decorations like...

this.  There was a small terrace on the back of the house.

Dining room.  Some of the house was blocked off from the tour.

The central hall ceiling.  A lot of dark wood in here which wasn't great for pictures.
Behind the doors was the chapel and up above was the organ.  I didn't get a good picture but the organ pipes were projecting different lengths into the room overhead to the music would project differently throughout the room.  As you can see from the picture everyone (including us) opted for the audio guide which was fascinating.

A fireplace in one of the children's bedrooms.

Another bedroom.

Chimneys on the rooftop terrace. 

The roof was designed with a rolling top which was common theme of his roofs.

Gaudi designed staircase in the hotel across the street.

Back on La Rambla after the interesting Gaudi designed house.  We'd see more of his work throughout the stay.

The base of Monument a Colom in Catalan, Mirador de Colon in Spanish, or Columbus Monument in English (Wiki link) which commemorates Columbus' first trip to the Americas.  It also marks one end of La Rambla.

The full monument. 

Jim Seppanen Pic - Palm trees and Port Vell (the Old Port).  Port Vell was the old port then became run down and is now a fashionable tourist spot.  You can read about it here on Wiki.

Jim Seppanen Pic - Can you get enough palm trees?  Columbus is giving directions in the distance.

The port and sail boats.  We walked around the port and La Ribera (Wiki link) for a bit before picking a horrible lunch place.
Jim Seppanen Pic - Loving the weather (low 70's F) and palm trees.

Dana Johnson Pic - Greasy spoon lunch at Port Nou.  Reminded me of truck stop dining in America.  My hot dog and fries, Karl's pizza, Kalle's hamburger with egg, and Lori's chicken breast with fries.

Kevin Coleman Pic - We stopped for drinks after lunch and I saw this in the cooler so I had to get one to try.  For the non-The Simpsons crowd this is what Homer Simpson drinks.  I tried it and said it was awful which it was and Kalle made an astute observation.  She said she wasn't surprised that it tasted bad because Homer is always making bad decisions (she briefly recounted an episode where he kept electrocuting himself trying to reach free beer) so it only makes sense that his beer would taste bad as well.  Her logic actually makes sense.  

Walking La Ribera on our way to the next destination.

Which was Basilica Santa Maria del Mar which was closed for afternoon siesta.  Time to put the hitch back in our giddyup and hit the bricks.  But only after Lori and Kalle spied a jewelry store and picked out matching necklaces. 

Some sculpture that kind of reminds me of how artsy Barca was at times.  This was on our way back to the apartment to deal with the lunchtime after effect.  At least the lunch place cleaned us out I guess.

Roman defence tower with Barcelona Cathedral in the background.
With the multiple emergencies behind us we are back at the Catedral de Barcelona or Barcelona Cathedral (Wiki link) which was quite the let down after Rome.  I hadn't put much thought into seeing churches after Rome but like to tour churches as we travel so thought "why not?" when planning the trip.  Well, because we were just in Rome.  It was plainer than a piece of white bread.  Definitely a Gothic style church.   

The church and square.  It was built between 1298 and 1450 AD.

The inside.  At least the lights are on.

San Sebastian Chapel.  We saw him a lot on this trip.  He is usually tied to a tree and has multiple arrows in his body.

Stained glass window.

The sides were lined with golden chapels.

Jay Seppanen Pic - My buddies.  We saw a lot of St. George here, I'll tell you why later.

The altar area.

Looking back through the choir.
In the crypt was the tomb of St. Eulalia (Wiki link) who also met a gruesome death at the hands of the Romans.
I misread the online church site as I thought the church was free and cloister charged admission but we had to buy tickets to enter the church which means we are going to the cloister as well now.  Have to maximise the value of our tickets you know.
Jay Seppanen Pic - My new favourite cloister has a St. George and the Dragon Fountain.  Admittedly my favourite list of cloisters has increased to 1 now.

One of the fountains had bathing white geese in it.  This guy here must be styling his feathers for the ladies.

Geese in the tropical cloister.  We stayed there for a bit watching them which was entertaining.  The 13 white geese are symbolic of St. Eulalia who was 13 when she was killed.

After the cathedral was a walk through Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) which is the centre of the old city and can be read about here on Wiki.  Many of the buildings here dated to Medieval times so we really enjoyed walking around here.

Carrer del Bisbe Irurita was one of my favourite sights on our walk. 

Back to Basilica Santa Maria del Mar (Wiki link) which was plainer and boring-er than the cathedral. 

It was built in the 1300's and is another Gothic church.

Side altar.

It's redeeming quality was the stained glass which was interesting because the people in the glass were all different styles as you will see.  This is almost a painting quality picture. 

Jay Seppanen Pic - At first I saw my buddies than I noticed St. Francisco (Wiki link) holding the skull on the pillow.  The creepiness continues.  This is the typical posing saints picture.

Modern stained glass style.

Some monks and peasants in a block type style.

Some relatively modern characters.

Looking down the plain old nave.  The Jamaican sprinters have been resting a bit by now so they are ready to rock.

Not that I am surprised but Barca has their own Roman Wall and Defence Towers that dates to 4th C AD.

Cathedral steeple close up as we walk back to the apartment.

Random side street slice of life.

For dinner we found a back street restaurant right around the corner from our apartment which was very good and not super expensive.

Dana Johnson Pic - Hummus starter.

Dana Johnson Pic - Egg and potato starter.

Dana Johnson Pic - Artichoke hearts and king prawn.   

Dana Johnson Pic - We had to try chicken paella while here, it was good.  Mine was comparable per the fam so I'll take that as a victory.  Prior to this assignment my cook top meals menu consisted of boiled hot dogs in water or grilled cheese sandwiches.  Now I'm able to make decent meals from scratch so I've come a long way baby!  If you didn't get that reference have someone in their forties or older explain the Virgina Slims reference to you.

Our apartment was right next to a market which was a lot handy and a little too real for us. 

Goat heads?  The teeth and eyes are a nice touch.

Chicken ala everything but the feathers.

Kevin Coleman Pic - Finally a local beer.  Heineken was extremely popular here and in Italy.  I like Heineken but not while I am travelling in Spain.
While picking up groceries for the apartment we were treated to a horde of Paris St. Germain football
 club fans loudly singing and chanting their way up La Rambla to a destination unknown.  PSG was in town to play Barcelona that night and these guys were getting their cheering hats on a few hours early.  One thing that I have noticed in Europe is the football club fans (mostly men) really like to drink and sing, usually simultaneously.  This group was loud and proud as they walked up the street.
Thursday Day 15 - Since our flight into Barca was moved up we basically spent all day touring yesterday which isn't what I had planned which meant we had a little extra time today.  Being the nice guy that I am we all slept in a little and leisurely "put the morning going".  We started it by checking out the local Dunkin Donuts shop.  They call it Dunkin Coffee here but it still tasted the same.

Dana Johnson Pic - Donuts and American sized coffee.  What a way to start the day!

Dana Johnson Pic - Lori chose coffee and fresh coconut to start her days.  She must have liked the coconut as she ate it every morning.
Our first attraction of the day was the Illa de la Discordia or Block of Discord (Wiki link) which is a block of houses designed by locally famous architects.  It is a popular tourist stop as you can walk by and see the artistic building faces.  We considered touring Casa Batllo but we thought 75 Euro (about 95 US Dollars) was a bit much for us to spend.  Not to complain but Barcelona was so expensive - the meals, Casa Batllo admission was 75 Euro, the zoo was 70 Euro (we chose not to go), and a one hour tour of the Catalan Music Place was 75 Euro (I didn't schedule one).  Not sure if it is normally like this or if it is a sign of the tough times they are having but wow was this an expensive city.  Probably not the best place to go after a 13 day trip through Italy.

Casa Batllo (official link) would have been my spendy choice to tour but since we found a much less expensive house yesterday we only looked at the outside.  Gaudi designed this house for Josep Batllo.
Gaudi's four-armed cross which we learned about the next day.  One of Gaudi's signature ideas.

Next to it was Casa Amatller.  You can see the line to get into Batllo.

Chimneys on the block.

Casa Mila or La Pedrera (official link) is the other house besides Batllo that is always mentioned on the Gaudi tour forums.  But since we did one yesterday and had two Gaudi places coming up we opted not to tour either house. 

Here's the crew waiting for me to catch up.  Sometimes my camera slows me down.

Rooftop of La Pedrera and balcony railing.

I'll get in trouble for this but you only live once, right?  While walking uphill to the park (we've metroed our way out of town after La Pedrera by now) I looked back to make sure Lori hadn't fallen to far behind the group when this ironic scene unfolds in front of me.  How can I pass it up?  Lori is encouraging me to take a picture to post on the blog.  Good idea Lor!  If you miss the irony look at the name on the white truck with the snail logo to the right.
Parc Guell (official link) was our next Gaudi stop.  It is a tree infested park outside of town that Gaudi designed statues, buildings, ledges, benches, platforms, and other miscellaneous artwork to blend into the natural landscape.  I've read some other ex-pat blog trips here and was looking forward to seeing it for ourselves.  It was very unique with walking and running paths winding through the heavily wooden park that sits on the side of a hill.  Gaudi combined some colourful benches, houses and animal sculptures with natural coloured tunnels, columns and steps to form a fun adventuring experience.

An observation point over the city.  We chose to enter the park from the upper entrance which meant we would walk down hill to the main entrance then down hill to the lower metro station to get back into the city.  An easier path then walking from the lower metro station uphill to the main entrance then uphill around the park.  The only flaw in the plan was the park maps were only at the main entrance which meant we wandered the park without knowing what any of the paths lead to.  We eventually found a map and the centre of the park.

One of the park buildings we did not see up close.

Looking out over the city.

Looking out over the park square.

Cafe in the park square.  The columns stretching out of the wall, ribbed capitals and wavy ledge are fine examples of Gaudi work.

Looking up the hill from the square.

The square was a huge platform supported by these columns.

The outside path next to the leaning tunnel.
The leaning tunnel.

Looking down one row of the columns.
The underside of the platform.

Looking at the buildings at the main entrance.

This lizard is synonymous with the park, I had to wait a while to get a picture without someone leaning on it.

Looking at the park from the main entrance.  A visually pleasing park although it would have been nice to have a map to follow.
Time to head back to town.

The sun is so bright we couldn't take it anymore and bought some lids.  William Shakespeare enjoyed the new found shade.
For lunch we treated the kids to Hard Rock Cafe as they haven't eaten there before and our food so far hasn't been anything special.  We all ordered burgers and they had a US taste to them which was nice for a change.  It was pretty expensive however. 

Dana Johnson Pic - A bacon and BBQ sauce cheese burger drowning in BBQ sauce.
Since we are at Placa de Catalunya (Wiki link) already we looked around for the Canaletas Fountain to drink out of it since drinking out of it supposedly ensures that you will return to Barcelona.  We threw coins into the Trevi Fountain in Rome (I forgot to add that to the Rome post) to return to Rome already so I figured we might as well ensure our return to Barcelona as well.  It took us a little bit to find it was we looked around the square first then started looking for the fountain.  I thought it was on the square and not La Rambla so ended up asking a tourist booth where it was located.  We finally found it and drank out of it.

Placa de Catalunya.

Lady Godiva meets Columbus?

I also washed my hands in it since they were sticky from my BBQ sauce which apparently angered the Fountain Gods.  Our next stop Palau de la Musica Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music) which is a concert hall and is also a World Heritage Site although this was designed by Montaner instead of Gaudi.  The Fountain Gods kept switching the streets on me and hiding the street plaques as we walked around the area quite a bit before finally finding the Palace.  Never anger the Fountain Gods.

The upper floors and balcony.

One side of the building.

We didn't see any of the inside other than looking through the windows.

The other side of the building with the people on the corner bursting out of the building.

Walking is much more fun when it isn't raining.
Since we are ahead of our itinerary thanks to Vuenling moving its flight up that first day we decided (Lori suggested this stretch goal) to see Barcelona's Triumphal Arch, the Arc de Triomf (Wiki link).  We figured we've seen five already (three in Ancient Rome, Arc de Triumph in Paris, Wellington Arch in London) so let's knock another one off the list.  Later that night Lori looked them up as we thought we probably had a good start on the list only to find out that triumphal arches are as common as cathedrals.  We've hit the more famous ones but worldwide we haven't even dented the list.

The Arc de Triomf was erected in 1888 per Wiki which makes it older than most of the sites we have toured so far in Barca.  Short stop but I am glad we saw it.
We are finally back at the apartment to relax before supper.  I was especially happy to sit down as my shoes are starting to lose their integrity.  Usually I can walk all day in them but there are a couple of areas on the soles that are starting to give out.  Plus the bottoms have a couple of tears in them which is especially exciting on rainy days.  Not to bad I guess, they've been to 23 countries so far.  I hope my next pair of shoes last me 23 countries. 
An observation from this leg of the trip.  I was surprised at how many people, probably locals, were wearing jackets.  The temperatures in Barcelona were mid 70's F so we were wishing we had packed shorts while a lot of people were in pants and jackets.  I'm sure the jackets will be gone in a month or two. 
While at the apartment yesterday we looked on Trip Advisor for a local restaurant and found one to try.  Unfortunately we couldn't find it while walking back from the cathedral so we double checked the map and spotted our navigational error.  Dinner tonight is at a pita place.

  Maybe not.  This place was highly rated on Trip Advisor and someone had posted about it last month but it is closed now.  So we started looking around for other options.  The kids voted for last night's place but I wanted to try something else instead.

Dana Johnson Pic - We ended up at another paella place along La Rambla.  Okay but nothing special.  One thing we found interesting with the Barcelona paella was it had less tomato sauce flavour than we usually have in restaurants and the rice was sticky rice.  We just ordered a couple of paella and everyone dug in. 
Friday Day 16 - Final full day in Barcelona.  It has been a long and great trip except for the weather in Venice but we are about done.  Everyone is still doing okay with the famous La Sagrada on the morning agenda.  We started out by grabbing some Dunkin Coffee then hopping on the metro to make our La Sagrada Familia (official link) entrance time.  This was another place that I purchased online tickets for as the queues can be quite long.  La Sagrada Familia (The Basilica of the Holy Family) is one of the places when you hear Barcelona you think La Sagrada Familia.  It is also ranked as one of the most beautiful churches (I like to tour churches in case you haven't figured that out yet) so it was high on my European sights to see list.  I skipped the audio guide this time and just looked around and read the info boards.  My brother advised me to watch the 60 Minutes show on it but we couldn't find it while travelling, we'll have to look for it now.  I definitely want to see it now that I have seen the church.  Interestingly Gaudi was not initially the architect on the church, he was given the task after the first architect left the project although I didn't see why he left.  Gaudi knew he would not be around for the completion of the church so he left instructions on completing the work.  A series of architects have taken over Gaudi's work after his death in 1926.

The Passion Facade represents the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

More people sculptures.  All of the people were this block style.

The bronze doors contain the texts of the gospels of St. Matthew and St. John.

Our first look inside the church.  A few things came to mind as we walked around.  One was reading the Peters' blog and the distracting construction sounds that tainted their experience.  I don't think our noise was as distracting Jeff and Kerry but I know what you mean, all of the construction does distract from the "Holy" experience of visiting.  Another item was the artistic decor of the church.  It felt more like an art museum than church.  Kalle liked it better as she likes modern art better than older art while Lori and Karl didn't like this place as much as other churches for the opposite reason.  I was on the fence on if it was a church or art museum.  Rome's churches are beautiful but there isn't any doubt that their art is biblical based, this was more modern based.  Lastly was the folding chairs instead of pews.  To me the chairs felt like the church part of the building was only a temporary arrangement.  I'm not sure why it bothered me so much or if they plan on adding pews eventually but the folding chairs really felt like a cheap touch.   

One of the stained glass walls.  Some churches have stained glass windows, this church has stained glass walls.

Looking up at the ceiling.  Gaudi intentionally designed the interior columns to feel like you were in a forest.  The columns were branching at the top and of different heights which gives the feeling of being in a forest and also supports the ceiling, vaults and towers.  Nature was a huge influence on his style as I found out in the church museum later.

I probably should have sprung the 5 Euro for the audio guide as I didn't pick up the significance of this balcony or some other sights.  In case you haven't noticed yet Gaudi did not like straight lines.

Along one wall.  The audio guide probably would have told me why the end glass was clear while the rest of the wall was stained also.

Info board identifying the different column sizes, stone types and shapes.

Sample of the columns looking down a side aisle.  You can see the "trees" branching out at the top.

Looking down the nave.  Definitely does not feel like a church yet.

The altar.  As far as I could see there is only one altar here which was different than most churches we have toured.  The sides had benches on the floor level then two different level (elevation) balconies for the choir.

Looking at the end of the church opposite the altar.  We'll come back to the man at the bottom later.
Gaudi had a firm grasp on geometry.

He positioned the choirs at different elevations to accentuate the church acoustics.

Looking through the forest to the clear and stained glass windows.  The folding chairs seemed out of place and cheap in a quad-jillion Euro cathedral like this.

Close up of when we first walked into the church.

Looking down a side aisle.  The sprinters have finished their race by now and are waiting for me on a bench.
St. George overlooks the congregation.  St. George is the patron saint of Catalonia (the region of Spain we are in now).  Not sure where his buddy is though. 

Final look into the trees before we learn a little more about Gaudi in a side room then onto the museum. 

Much of his work was inspired by nature.
Walking through this room was like being back in Geometry class.
Read below.

See above.

After the side room we walked outside to go to the museum.  This is the artwork over one of the side doors.

A tree on the exterior.  You can see the cranes overhead which are still putting up the towers.  It is supposed to be completed in 2026.
His upside down hanging model of the Colonia Guell church.  The audio guide probably would have added a lot here for me. 

See below.

Fascinating inside out view of the geometry of these pieces.

This was made a minor basilica in 2010 by the Pope.  I wonder what he thought of the folding chairs.

Building time line.  128 years later and they are still 13 years away from completing it.

Partially finished exterior.

Rolling roof on the school house.

Side of church with school room in front.  Seeing Gaudi's work and reading about it was amazing although I think everyone else was Gaudi-ed out by now.

This looks like a fairy tale castle.  The altar is to the right and the St. George statue is to the left as you look at this picture.
I had to cross two streets in order to get a picture of the whole church.  Not sure we'll be back in 20206 to see the completed work but I am glad we saw it now.

Dana Johnson Pic - Another meal selection based on convenience and location.  Oh well, it fills the stomach for a while at least. 

Our last World Heritage Site stop of the trip was Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau or Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul which was designed by Montaner.  I wasn't sure what to expect as it wasn't highly rated on the sights but it was close to La Sagrada so we checked it out.  

From the literature, the hospital dates to 1401 when six small hospitals combined to form one.

It was an operational hospital until a few years ago.  There were a few people going into and out of the buildings so I am not sure what it is used for now although they are working on the centre of the campus.  Short stop that didn't live up to my low expectations.

Walking back to the metro after the hospital.  Barcelona likes their tress which was nice to see in a big city.
After a quick pit stop at the apartment we are at Placa Espanya (Wiki link) to check out a couple of attractions.  Our itinerary is almost done for the day.

First up is the Les Arenes or the Arena, an old bullfighting ring turned into a shopping mall.  Neat concept.

Looking at Placa Espanya from the Arena rooftop.  We'll be walking between the Venetian Towers in a bit.

Lori and Kalle were in the mood to shop until they saw the prices.  Have I mentioned how expensive Barcelona was yet?

Walking up to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic (Wiki link) which was still sleeping.  We found out they would be on later so we went back to the apartment early to take a break.  We'll be back to see the show later. 

Kevin Coleman Pic - A San Miguel, very nice.

Dana Johnson Pic - Back to the restaurant by our apartment for more paella, hummus, artichoke hearts, and potato with eggs.

The Magic Fountain show runs from 7 PM to 9 PM Friday and Saturday so I wanted to see it after reading about it on other peoples blogs.

On our way to finding a seat for the show.  The crowd is still forming at 7:30 PM.

The sun is on its way down so for now the fountain show was clear water and pop music.

Another fountain picture as we wait.  I liked the fountain.

Looking up at an art museum.

Here comes the coloured water.

More pictures.

Once it starting getting darker the music changed to classical.

And the coloured water was easier to see. 

We stayed for more than an hour which was a tad long for the kids but Lori and I enjoyed it.  A fun way to end the day.  Below are some short videos I took during the show.

Final shot as we leave to beat the crowd to the metro.
Saturday Day 17 - Whew.  The vacation is almost over so we opted to sleep in and lazily get ready for our flight.  Mission accomplished.  Since we had to be out of the apartment before we had to leave for the airport we opted to bring our luggage to the apartment main office and store it there while we explore that area of Barca.  While dropping off our luggage we asked for a lunch place recommendation so he called a place around the corner to make a reservation for us and we are glad he did because the place he sent us to was more of a deli counter than restaurant so we would not have picked this place.  It was named Rebost i Celler.

Black pig's legs.  They are named that for their black hooves per the staff.  The Spanish Armada in medieval times was called the Black Pigs by the English and I didn't make the connection until now although I think it was meant to be derogatory by the English. 

Dana Johnson Pic - Maybe our best meal in Barcelona.  Local cheese with a splash of oil, bread with tomato and oil topping, olives, Spanish omelet, and ham slices from four different areas of the pig.  Throw in some water and coffee and this was also our cheapest meal in Barcelona. 
Since we were all done touristing we decided to head to the airport an hour or so earlier than we needed to figuring that we would check in, drop off our luggage and relax in the terminal.  The plan was going fine as we found our return Aerobus ride and proceeded to the Ryanair desk to drop off our luggage and pick up our boarding passes.  One downside of staying in apartments is missing the amenities like a printer or help calling taxis which we quickly discovered.  Our problem when we went to check in was we didn't have paper copies of our boarding passes.  Lori had them downloaded to the iPad but Ryanair would not accept them as our boarding passes.  After a few minutes explaining their archaic policies to us Lori walked to an office to have them printed out at an airport office but opted not to after discovering the 70 Euro cost.  So she and Karl took off to the other terminal to find a place to print out the passes while Kalle and I waited with the luggage.  And waited.  And waited.  I'm glad I didn't have a watch (iPhone, iPod, etc. is all in the backpack on Karl's back at this point) as we waited a very long time and if I had seen the time I would have been having a mild stroke.  They finally come back after finding a lady to help them print out the passes.  Long story and I think she violated a few rules helping us out so I won't go into details but we finally were checked in and passed through security.  We stopped for a quick bite and walked to our gate area when another plane was boarding.  Karl said it was ours but it wasn't ours according to the screens.  Turns out he was right.  We were the last few people to board the plane but fortunately had paid a few extra Euros to reserve seats so we didn't have to worry about sitting in the last row at least.  Finally we were sitting down and could relax.  The flight was fine so we land, find on our East Midlands Airport to Derby Train Station bus and ride to Derby.  Since the cupboards and fridge was empty we ate at an Italian place by the Derby train station instead of going to the grocery.  Probably best not to eat at an Italian restaurant in England after eating in Italy for two weeks. 
Dana Johnson Pic - Tagliatelle carbonara England style.  <sigh>  I miss Italy.

Trip Reflections:
Jay - Did not like Venice except for the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica but that was probably b/c of the rain so I'll give Venice an Incomplete grade.  Liked Burano, Murano,  Florence Cathedral Square, Pisa Square of Miracles, Tuscan driving scenery, food in Italy, all of Gaudi's works, and just about everything in Rome (tombs, sculptures, church interiors, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, tiramisu).  After our second night in Rome I told Lori everyone needs to go there once in their life, Rome was one of my favourite cities of our travels.  Disliked how expensive Barca was, the Roman Forum, and all the confusing streets in Venice.

Lori - Liked all of Italy and the good food throughout the trip.  Pisa should have been a stop and not a destination.  Barca was okay but we probably shouldn't have visited Barca just after Rome as it isn't a fair comparison.

Karl - Liked Roman architecture, food in Italy, St. Peter's Basilica, and basically all of Rome.  Disliked Barcelona specifically the newer (as compared to Rome) Gaudi buildings, disappointed in Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Kalle - Liked food in Italy, Gaudi buildings especially La Sagrada Familia, Leaning Tower of Pisa, graffitti building at beginning of post, and LOVED Colosseum.  Disliked Rome because it was boring and old.

Thanks for listening,


  1. Whew! What an epic trip. You all are endurance tourists. I enjoyed your thoughts in Venuce and Barcelona after being there myself, and took some notes on Florence and Rome as we head there in a few weeks. We will probably only visit 15% of the churches you all saw, oh well. I may have to enjoy a pasta carbonara in your honor.

    1. The pasta carbonara was very good most of the places we ate. It'll be interesting what you guys think of Florence and Rome.