Today we were booked onto the 10.30 campsite shuttle into the centre of Barcelona for our self-guided tour of the city. I had made the mistake of playing Freddie Mercury’ and Monserrat Caballé’s “Barcelona” track (used after his death as the theme for the summer Olympics hosted here in 1992) on the van stereo on the way here and so consequently it is in our heads and I can only hear the name of the city in operatic tones in my head! So Kevin and I, plus Lizzy and Lola joined the coach with a number of other campers and a number of other dogs into Bar-ce-looo-naaa having booked online for our spaces. Little did we realise when booking, not being fans of F1, that the race is in Barcelona tomorrow and there are people with F1 jerseys everywhere. We were relieved to have managed to get a space here at all this weekend.
The coach dropped us on the edge of Plaça de Catalunya right in the centre and north of the old Gothic Quarter with its tall, narrow, shaded streets full of restaurants and independent quirky shops, ideal for wondering with two dogs more used to the English climate. We strolled a little down La Rambla first, the famous pedestrianised tree lined, mile long main shopping street of Barcelona. Not being big shoppers we quickly cut into the narrow streets of Barri Gòtic looking for coffee, with lovely architecture and cast iron railings on flower strewn terraces. This was obviously a city with serious affluence in the past. However we managed to find I think the only area of Barcelona without a coffee shop every other shop. However there were all sorts of quirky arts, craft and quirky shops including one which just sold rubber ducks of various characters and costumes. We also saw the original La Cathedral, now overshadowed by La Sagrada Familia, which dates from 1298 but with an impressive gargoyles strewn gothic exterior added in 1887-90.
We finally decided to head towards a restaurant which had been recommended by our waiter at the campsite the night before, from the literally thousands in Barcelona. The Quinze Nits (15 nights) was in a lovely little square called Placa Reial, full of palm trees and lovely old architecture plus a little market. It was by now beginning to fill out for lunch and time for a rest stop for the dogs so we decided to take a early tapas lunch with a beer for Kev and a lovely glass of chilled Cava for me. We would never of chosen this place based on Trip Advisor reviews, but had an excellent lunch with a modern twist on traditional Spanish. We have certainly learned that the tastes of the average trip advisor reviewer does not always align with our own, great to get a local recommendation. However, we did see another couple of people from the campsite bus there though so, perhaps it is just owned by his cousin or something 🤣 We don’t mind if the food is good 😋
After a nourishing lunch we were feeling adventurous and decided we would branch out further with our walking tour. We have been really conscious of overheating the dogs who are not used to the heat, we however did not want to leave them in the van all day in the dark with aircon. We had originally planned two days of site seeing in Barcelona, but the forecast is for it to be even hotter tomorrow. So we decided over lunch the compromise was to see more today with the dogs then have a day off with a bit of pool time when it gets hotter tomorrow. So we gave the dogs yet more water and poured the rest of the bowl all over them and set off for the waterfront, up the tree lined Passeig de Sant Joan towards La Sagrada Familia.
The seafront had yet another monument to Christopher Colombo’s (Colon), it seems every town is trying to claim a connection to him, not sure exactly the connection for Barcelona. The end of the cable car which takes you into Montjuïc, the hillside over looking the port and city. Also, what must be the most elaborate looking gothic tax office military base (now museum) and Port Authority buildings.
We headed north via a shaded route passing a local wedding at the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy, dedicated the the cities Patron Saint famous for its roof top statue. Next yet another 14th century church the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. Triumphal Arch built for the World Exhibition in 1888, like Sevilla, these exhibitions seem to have driven quite some investment. around every corner it seems there is something to see in Barcelona and so much more we did not get to see. We could easily spend a week here.
Finally after a few rest / water stops for the girls we made it to La Sagrada Familia, which I had always planned to visit in Spain. Anyone who has ever read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett or Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd cannot fail to be fascinated by the often 100 year plus construction of a cathedral, whether you are religious or not. The Master Mason / builder or his son who often takes the work on never manages to see the work finished. La Sagrada Familia is the only modern day example of that I am aware of, that I will be able to see in my lifetime and despite advances in construction it does not seem to be going any quicker than in medieval times. Gaudi, the Barcelona born devout architect started work in 1882, devoting 43 years to his life’s work to his holy mission. At his death only the crypt, apse walls, one portal and one tower were finished. In 1936, anarchists burned and smashed the interior and all the models to build it. However work restarted in 1952 and (optimistically?) it is due to complete in 2026. However based on the sketches of the finished product there seems to be quite a few (10 apparently) towers to go. It is certainly spectacular, a modernist gothic cathedral, if there is such a thing. There are apparently moves since March 2000 to canonise Gaudi, so clearly he is beloved in Barcelona. Although I gather due to the loss of the original models, controversy reigns as to whether this project really represents his work anymore. No government or official church funding is used to fund the build, which cost €18M in 2009 alone, plus €36M paid to the city authorities in 2018 for a belated building permit after 136 years of construction (source Wikipedia). I gather all is now funded by tickets sales and private donations. Fascinating to wonder if and when this apparently bottomless public project will ever be finished and if we will live to see it. I did not get to go in as we had the dogs, but will return one day perhaps when they have got a bit more done 😉😂
Finally we headed back to meet out 5pm coach. Lola had decided that she had had enough walking in the heat despite us sticking to the shade. Our youngest and fittest dog who could happily run a marathon in U.K. temperatures, perhaps because she has a darker coat is not well adapted to heat. Luckily we were prepared for this and pulled out the Lola bag to carry her, which she was very happy to succumb to. She recovers fairly quickly away from the heat radiating from buildings etc. We also found a couple of nice corner bars with a strong breeze for all of us to get refreshment 😁🍻🥂
We arrived back to the coach via the Plaça de Catalunya pick up point only to find the police had for some reason (F1?) closed off half the streets in the city including that with the pick up point. Thankfully there was safety in numbers as we waited with everyone else and after some mobile comms to the office we all dashed quickly round the corner only 30mins late to jump on the bus, the police had let through cordons, to collect us. Phew.