We got to Barcelona — finally.
As much as Suanne feeling that the vacation started when we crossed the US border, it is only when we landed in Barcelona that I feel the vacation really got going. After all, Suanne has put everything on my shoulders. She said that she is leaving it entirely up to me to do everything … she is there only for the ride. I am the tour guide, she is the tourist. She got the better deal.
Here is some self explanatory trivias for you which I got from Wikipedia.
In terms of cities, Barcelona ranks #11 in the world.
It did not take us too long to clear immigration at the newish looking Barcelona airport. We travelled light with no checked in baggage. When travelling standby, you don’t want to have the mess dealing with retrieving your baggage in case you don’t get to board.
Getting from the airport proved to be easier than we thought. Due to the lack of planning, I had earlier been prepared dole out some bucks (or rather euros) for taxi ride to the hotel. I was really expecting it to be expensive too. For some reason I do not know, many airport taxis in the world have surcharges making it more expensive than normal. Do you know the reasoning behind this?
The Information counter at the airport speaks perfect English. We were directed to down an escalator and there was a stand with a bus waiting. The bus shuttles to the city very often and costs a few euros.
The shuttle bus last stop was at the main square of Barcelona. It is called the Plaza de Catalunya. It is like the Barcelona city center.
Having got off from the bus, we needed to get some bearings on where we are and where the hotel is. The bus driver was of no help because he speaks no English. So, we went to the Information Center office at the Plaza de Catalunya, lugging our bags along. We were not so conspicious because there were tourists doing that too. So, yeah … we blended in alright!
At the Info Center, the folks there were helpful. But that place was super busy and chaotic even. We decided to get a tourist package called the Barcelona Card. We went with the 4-day pass which costs €36 each.
This package gives us unlimited transit rides. It also provides us with free or discounted entrances to museums, attractions and even restaurants. All the discounts and associated coupons are in a booklet and covers almost all attractions.
There are so many coupons that there is no way we could use all of them within 4 days.
The Barcelona subway system (the Metro is what they call it) is easy to navigate. They have maps everywhere and so we did not have to pull out the little map they gave us at the Info Center.
The Metro is an underground subway system. At the entrance of each station there is a read diamond sign that simply says M. That is where the metro is. There are are several entrances to each metro station. What we like most was that each entrance is named and cleared marked on the map. This is so useful because it helps us get our bearings correct coming out of the station.
The vending machines takes coins, notes and credit cards. And they are are available in multiple languages, including English.
Their subway system is amazingly clean. Even the tracks does not have thrown rubbish like what we see in many older subway systems. However, it was really humid and hot in the stations.
Like what I saw in Paris, the train doors does not open automatically. One gotta manually open the doors at the station. I still have not quite figured why they don’t automate the doors like what we see in other transit trains. My theory is that the cars are air conditioned while the stations are not. So, they don’t want to unnecessarily open the car doors.
By the time we checked into the hotel, it was time to eat. Being not familiar with the neighborhood, we just went into a fast food outlet near the hotel to grab a bite to fend off the hunger pans before we hit the real Spanish stuff.
Pans and Company outlets are found throughout Barcelona.
Fortunately the girl who took our order spoke English … no, rather it was Spanglish. It was hard communicating but she was very patient with us.
We ordered the Sensacion Bacon because it sounded like it is some sensational bacon sandwich. It is kind of disappointingly small. We meant to share this just to get us to tapas time. Interestingly they have one of the small crunchy fries (what do you call that now?) as a topping.
We also had Bravas … the fast food version of the common Spanish dish called Patatas Bravas, I reckon. New Spanish word learnt … Patatas is potatoes in Spanish. Fast learner huh? 🙂
You know, our impression during our stay in Spain was that they take their food seriously … even at fast food outlets. More about that in days to come but here in Pans and Company, the girl who took our order asked what “dessert” we wanted with our sandwich. So we opted for the Magnum Temptation.
The sandwich, bravas and “dessert” came up to €8.90.
We went back to the hotel to catch up with the jet lag before going out later on that day.
Barcelona has one of those public bicycle programs I heard so much about. For a fee, you could take one of these bicycles and return it to another station.
We wanted to get those but all instructions were in Spanish and Catalonian language. Too bad.