Europe 2014 – Barcelona: Walking Tours and World Cup Fever

Timeline: Barcelona 8th  –11th

Madrid to Barcelona

Fortunately for us, the long journey of 500 plus kilometers to Barcelona from Madrid was along high-speed highway without any tolls, so we could drive in a fairly relaxed fashion.  Our destination, Camping 3 Estrellas is a holiday oriented family spot situated right next to the Mediterranean Sea.  We registered for our stay and paid the extra 5 euros for dedicated Wi-Fi access for one device, made our way to a site almost directly across from the beach, and set up for the duration.

During this time of year, and particularly in nicely located campgrounds like this one, the cost per night goes up; in this case we paid 27 Euros per night.  The place had good facilities, with a well-stocked store, bar/restaurant and for at least one member of the party’s enjoyment, a small shop that sold ice cream and crepes.

Campsite at Estrellas

Campsite at Estrellas

We bought some groceries in the store plus a bottle of wine, made dinner and then I rambled over to the nearby bar/restaurant to work on the blog.  I found it frustrating trying to stay connected to the Wi-Fi and even went over to the reception area to find out if there was an issue.  They assured me there wasn’t so I returned to the Bar.

I’d taken my own glass of wine, but as in some of the campgrounds we’ve visited, the bar/restaurant is independently run and so to sit one must buy something.  I ordered a glass of wine and spent a pleasant couple of hours watching the patio fill up with folks coming over to watch that night’s World Cup match between Germany and Brazil.  Germany would win handily; indeed it would be crushing defeat for the Brazilians, tragic for them as they were hosting the games.

Before leaving camp the next morning, I stopped again at Reception to ask about the Wi-Fi and one of the young clerks went off script and actually told me that everyone was having problems with it, even the employees.  So I asked for my 5 Euros back and we now entered multiple days of Internet dead zone.

Our connection to Barcelona was simple and easy; walk a quarter mile to the bus stop, ride to its last stop at Barcelona’s main square, Plaza Catalunya, and start our day from there.  This would be a very handy location for us as an Apple Store was located at one corner of the plaza and we would stop there at the beginning and end of each visit to town to use their Wi-Fi to at least check email.

Plaza Catalunya

Plaza Catalunya

Using our Steve’s guidebook, we began a walking tour down Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas.  Rendy Richards and I had visited Barcelona in 1977 while traveling in the VW van, camping outside of town at a beach site.  We’d come into town each night and spread a tarp out on the ground on the Ramblas to sell the extra Levi’s I had brought (they had great cachet at the time), some extra camping gear I no longer needed, and whatever else we could think of as I was fast running out of money.  We’d stopped in Andorra on the way to Barcelona and stocked up with duty free Johnny Walker Red Scotch and Cuban Cigars, making for memorable evenings as street peddlers.

La Rambla

La Rambla

So I was eager to see the Ramblas again.  Much has changed since 1977 in Barcelona. Then, Francisco Franco had been dead for two years, but his decades long assault on Catalonia (that part of Spain where Barcelona is located) had left deep divisions and much activism.  I remember the streets being full of the national guard, all armed with machine guns and how strange that seemed to us, not being used to seeing heavily armed personnel on the streets of Los Angeles.

Official Barcelona Time

Official Barcelona Time

Now our walk down this main pedestrian drag provided an overload of the senses; throngs of people, carts and booths with merchandise, food everywhere.  Unencumbered walking time would take less than 30 minutes to its terminating point at the port, but this is not a street for walking fast. The Ramblas, which means “stream” in Arabic, is an endless current of people and action.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria

We passed the Liceu, Barcelona’s opera house, the clock that keeps the official time for Barcelona and stopped in at La Boquería the large outdoor market known for its fresh meat, fruit, and veggies.  When we finished up our tour at the port, we grabbed a cold beer from a stand and sat on steps overlooking the harbor, pondering our next destination.

Sometimes a cold can of beer and a view is heaven on earth

Sometimes a cold can of beer and a view is heaven on earth

We settled on a tour of the nearby Maritime Museum.  Housed in The Barcelona Royal Shipyard, where construction started during the 13th century under the rule of Peter III of Aragon, it was the city’s main shipyard and later served as a military building.  The real draw for me was to be a tour of the nearby three-mast schooner Santa Eulàlia.  Launched in 1919 it is a typical merchant ship of that time, maybe similar to the one we have toured in San Diego’s harbor.  Unfortunately, it was closed that day so we just toured the museum’s small exhibit hall.

The Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum

On the way back to Plaza Catalunya to take the bus to camp, we stopped in at a large multi-story Carrefour on Las Ramblas and discovered they had two cooking stations, one serving Chinese style stir-fry and the other sushi.  We’d not had any Asian food since we’d left the states and this would save cooking in camp, so we chose Chinese, filled out our order forms, watched our portions being prepared and sat down for a filling and very satisfying dinner for a not unreasonable price of 12.79 Euros (including a Coke Zero), about what you might pay for a couple of two item dinners at a Panda Express.

Upon our return to camp Joanna and I both made it over to the bar to recharge devices and work on the blog.  With no Internet we felt a bit cut off, but it’s good sometimes to disconnect.  While sitting, much like the night before, the patio began to fill up with spectators for the telecast of the other World Cup semi-final game between Holland and Argentina.

We closed down shop partway through the game and crawled into the tent, laying in our sleeping bag listening to the cheers from the patio as we tried to discern who might be winning.  Given that the crowd was full of many Holland supporters, all wearing their team colors of orange, we thought things were going well for that team.  We would find out the next day that they lost on penalty kicks.

It’s been interesting traveling here during World Cup time, to see the fervor with which the game is followed.  So different than the football we watch, this game is one of small advances, more of missed chances than big plays.  I’m not sure I’ll ever fully appreciate it but can see how these folks rally to it.  I even caught myself looking at jerseys, particularly the black and neon green Adidas away jersey for Spain.  I couldn’t quite justify spending the nearly $100 it would have cost me, but boy did it look cool.  It’s on sale now for $60.  Maybe I can pick one up at a street market somewhere.  Maybe I’ll become a futbol fan.  Maybe.

Sunset in Camp

Sunset in Camp

Links:

Camping 3 Estrellas: http://www.camping3estrellas.com/en/

Liceu: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liceu

La Boqueria: http://www.boqueria.info/index.php?lang=enas a

Maritime Museum: http://www.mmb.cat/

Spain 2014 World Cup Away Jersey: http://store.fifa.com/39821.html

One comment

  1. Herr Angst · · Reply

    Greatly enjoyed Barcelona with you, especially Las Ramblas. It would appear that with each passing day you become a little more comfortable with the routine, seeing things a little diff erently. I have visions of Jerry and Rendy hawking whiskey, blue jeans, and Cuban cigars on the sidewalk. In my day, I used colored chalk to draw and fill in geometric patterns on the sidewalk with a nearby cap for donations. By my reckoning you should now be in Paris with Beverly. That should be fun for all three of you.

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