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Brian’s Travel Diary

Monday, 22 Aug 2011

Location: Granada, Spain

MapBARCELONA (Day 1) Got a taxi from the station to our hotel – Hostel Putxet for 12 euros but was told the room wouldn’t be ready until 1pm so we left out luggage and decided to do something until then. As it was a very hot day and I was still a bit wobbly after my fall in Paris, we hopped on the Red Sight Seeing bus and did the Green (eastern) Circuit (2 ½ hours). We got back to H Putxet around 1.30 and had a 2 ½ hour siesta. I think the 2 flights of..... YES!! MORE bloody stairs, and carrying bags up with NO lift took its toll. If the room in Paris was smallish, the one here was even smaller - with NO fridge.
After our siesta we picked up the Red SS bus and did the Orange (western) Circuit. As our friend Penny had suggested, this is definitely the way to get your bearings. I noted down places to visit on the Reb Bus map so that I could do a repeat of my Paris M O.
We walked to our “home” Metro station (Lesseps) and bought a 4 day pass; found a restaurant nearby, “El Canari” ordered paellas each and strolled back to our humble abode. After I mapped out the next day’s route we hit the hay.
Day 2: “Noisy F’ing Italians!!!” Not only are the room small but it seems the walls are exceedingly thin as the Iti sheilas next door batted on well after midnight until around 3am. So much for a good night’s sleep to attack the next day! We were up (but definitely not rested) at 7 am to make sure we got to the Sagrada Familia Church early. We joined the 50 metre queue at 8:15 for the 9am opening and were inside the SFC just after 9. The outside of this architectural marvel of Gaudi’s is incredibly stunning, but the inside brought tears to my eyes! Words fail me in any attempt to describe the majesty of this astounding building. The use of light; its structural composition; its use of coloured glass! It was just simply overpowering in its grandeur.
Went up in the lift for a marvellous view of Barcelona. It here that the battery of my camera ran out so it was back to our digs; downloaded the SD card onto the computer; grabbed my “other” camera and walked to Park Gruell (another Gaudi masterpiece).
From the park we got the metro from Lesseps to La Rambla. More buzzing crowds. The regular already numerous tourists were swelled considerably with the World Youth Day throngs touring before heading to Madrid for Il Papa’s visit. Thankfully they’ll have gone home by the time we get to Madrid on 27th Aug.
Got stung for 50 euros by a very clever scam I should have been more astute about!! (tell you more about it later).
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR VISIT TO BARCELONA include;
• Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and (forgot the name – will fill it in later;
• The throng of La Ramble and the incredible market selling everything from lamb heads, testicles AND with scrummy fresh fruit juices of every description
• The Magic Fountain – water and light show – it was “magic”;
• Montjuic (accessed by funicular railway) – the park, the castle (accessed by cable car), the galleries;
• Plaza Espanya – where the old Arenas de Barcelona (bull ring) has been restored and lifted up of the ground and a modern shopping centre built inside it
• The Garcia Locality Festival – from the initial preparations to “the show” - particularly Carrer Verdi not far from our hotel
• The Barcelona Beaches – just a look – although Creaky did dip her tootsies in the Med while I had a beer
VISIT TO SALVIDOR DALI’S MUSEUM IN FIGUERES
At the Passaig de Garcia estacion (station) I asked a TMB (Barcelona Metro) person for help to purchase 2 return tickets to Figueres. He took me to a ticket machine and selected a 10 trip/3 zones ticket, telling me it was the most economical way to get us to and from Figueres. I told him we already had 4 day Metro passes but e still insisted that the 10 trip/3 zones pass (23 euros) was the way to go so I purchased the ticket.
It allowed us onto the Renfe station to catch the train and when I showed the conductor on the way to Figueres he just handed it back and continued along the carriages.
After enjoying the madness of Dali’s genius we ventured back to Barcelona. I put my ticket in the verification box and had it stamped and we boarded the train.
BUT when I presented it to the conductor, he told me in Spanish (he couldn’t speak English nor could anyone else in our carriage) I couldn’t use the Metro ticket and that I needed to pay 19.70 euros for a Renfe ticket. I tried to tell him that I wasn’t trying to evade the fare but that I had been assued that the ticket I purchases was valid and that the conductor on the way TO Figueres accepted it. So I’m trying to explain in English and he’s getting the sahits with me in Spanish and then some idiot woman started telling me IN SPANISH pretty much what I had gathered the conductor had said!! Totally pissed off, I offered to pay by VISA card. NO!! No carte!!! So I tried to say I’d pay when we got to Barcelona. NO!!! And he motioned for us to leave the train – in the middle of somewhere between Figueres and Barcelona he wants to put us off the bloody train! A---hole!!!! Luckily Chre had a 50 euro note, so we paid the bloke and got a Renfe ticket. I tried to get a refund for the 10 trip ticket but had no luck with that so we gave it to a young couple who were staying at our hotel. I hope that’s the first and last run in with an officious shit in Spain.
Everyone else has been fantastic and although Barcelona has been excessively crowded, the good local map/good Metro map system we used in Paris also worked a treat in Barcelona.

ON TO VALENCIA!!
Great Hotel close to the station!!! When we arrived our room wasn’t ready so they gave us a voucher and told us to go to the bar and enjoy drinks at their expense. Who can argue with that!!! After we had settled into our room we asked reception where we could find a laundromat (as the Lonely Planet only mentioned one miles from where we were staying). We found it 3 streets down from us in Carrer Cadiz. A lovely young senorita helped us get our clothes washed and dried. Chre wasn’t feeling 100% - she had glggy eyes anda cold so we found a farmacia and got her some eye drops and some panadol.
After stowing our washing we headed out to find paella – as Valencia boasts that paella is a Valencian inspired cuisine. Reception mentioned 2 places at the beach. To get to the beach we had to get the Metro Line 5 to Neptu – although this seemed straight forward it was not to be as the Line 5 station also was shared with Line 3 – which we found out when the station names didn’t match the Metro map. So we hopped off to get a train back to where we started at Estacio Nord. Now we had been well-served by the Paris and Barcelona Metros, but apparently Valencia’s isn’t all that old and is not as well used as the others, meaning that the frequency of trains is more like home. So after fartibg around underground for a hour or so we eventually got back to where we started. It was now around 10.30 so once we were above ground again, we found a terrace restaurant. The old waiter who welcomed us was a real card and a flirt and the service was excellent. We ordered a seafood paella to share and a bottle of “beeno blanko”. This was the second paella we’ve had in Spain and I must say, Our Sam’s paellas make the one’s we’ve had in Spain very, very ordinary. This one was dry and very salty and we really couldn’t finish it – but it filled a hole and we wandered back to the hotel after midnight.
Next day we found the Tourist Office not far from our hotel; grabbed a combined Metro/Bus Routes map and a 2 day Valencia Card. Shock! Horror!! Whoever designed the Bus Route map must be now buried up to his/her neck in and ant’s nest. Talk about complicated! Bloody Hell!!
Combine a complicated map with street names that don’t match as some are in Catalan and some in Spanish and you are in for a nightmare; and the Metro really doesn’t go anywhere near major sites.
Anyway we managed to walk about the old part of town, visit the Cathedral and see what is purported to be “The Holy Grail” AND climb the high 207 stone spiral steps of the cathedral’s bell tower. Great views and the bell struck at 1pm while we were waiting for the green light to let us go back down the steps.
After a cerveza and beeno blanko and some tapas we head of to find a 15, 35 or 95 bus (caught a 35) to take us to NEW part of Valencia. AND it was astounding!! We went to the aquarium and were amazed by its size and the variety of exhibits therein. After a few hours there we caught at 95 bus to take us back to where we started from. WRONG!! Although it says you can catch a 15, 35 or 95 to the New Centre only the 15 and 35 bring you back to the old centre when we started SO we had an interesting but very bloody frustrating tme finding our way back to where we started from. It was definitely time for more cerveza!!!
That night we returned to the same restaurant (but earlier than last time) to see if they had the lamb shoulder dish that they had run out of the night before. The old fella remembered us an told our waiter that we were from Australia and to treat us well. AND he did!! They still didn’t have the lamb shoulder but Chre had a leg of lamb (literally!!!) and I had a dish of pork, lamb, spicy sausage and poor man’s style potatoes (which were chips cut a different way), accompanied by a verdello. Following our meal, we were having coffee, when the owner came to our table and offered us a liquer (43) which was very yummy.
On our final day in Valencia we managed to get the right bus to the Lladro museum and factory. Once again we were set adrift on our own to ask for directions to it when the bus arrived at the terminating stop. We only had to ask 2 people and they were very helpful and we found the place. AND it was worth finding. Not only did we see the museum but we were also treated to a guided tour (usually you need to book well beforehand but they let us join another couple and their young daughter) through the factory and see the process used in making the figures. Now we know why it is expensive. In the museum we saw their most expensive piece – an Egyptian Pharaohs’ barge (1 0f 100 made) at the princely sum of 255,000 euros!!!!! We didn’t get one because we don’t have the luggage space. Then it was back to the bus stop and back into town to catch a 13, 14, 15 or 35 bus to visit another museum of interest. This one contains the winning paper mache figures from the Falles Festival held each year March (but only those since about 1931) I set the alarm off when I took a photo (I actually took a few) and a voice boomed out “NO PHTOS ALLOWED” – I also knocked a door closed with my shoulder bag – but they didn’t kick me out or make me study the bloody bus route map until I knew it verbatim!! Some very clever work in this “different” museum.
Back for a sleep as we have a 0059hrs train to catch to Granada.