London -> Paris -> Barcelona

WARNING: This is going to be a long post. There will be, however, a sufficient amount of photos: pretty landscapes, silly faces and various tourist hotspots to compensate for the amount of text. Continue at your own peril (of boredom).

NB. Text in [ ] are random thoughts. Why I include them in my posts I don't know. None of it is "necessary" but then again, none of it is unnecessary. Thoughts are thoughts. I just choose to share mine with all you random (but lovely I'm sure) readers.

All pizza cutters should be like this one


Friday 26th August

I'm usually pretty anal when it comes to planning and being organised, but this trip has turned out to be one hell of a logistical nightmare.

When booking the tickets I thought the train to Barcelona would depart from the same station that the Eurostar arrives at. Wrong. Turns out the departure station is a half hour taxi ride across Paris. Fantastique!

My French is appalling. I'm convinced the taxi driver knew this as he looked upon me with confusion as I said "Gare d'Austerlitz, s'il vous plait" in the harshest, non-French accent you can imagine. French is such a luscious language. Soft on the ears, silky and incredibly entrancing. Tagalog on the other hand can be described as cacophonous and incongruous - especially when compared to English. Hence why putting on a French accent is completely alien and unnatural to me. Ho hum.

Paris is a place that just exudes charm. I wish I could stay and wander around but Barcelona beckons. Perhaps another time.

Arriving at Austerlitz, glancing at the clock I noticed my brother and I only had ten minutes to board our train. Now in normal circumstances that would be plenty of time, but when you can't read a single sign and have no idea where you are going, panic quickly sets in. Frantically searching for even just one word in English,  I finally spotted something I understood - even if it wasn't in English - Barcelone.

On the Knight Train

The Renfe Elipsos trainhotel is a cross between the Hogwarts Express and the Knight Bus from Harry Potter. The corridors are narrow - allowing space for two people to momentarily spoon as they try to squeeze past, or one person who has eaten too many burgers. In the evenings the beds magically (see what I did there?) appear from one of the walls. It's like a slumber party but without the fun nor the good company.


Saturday 27th August

There's nothing quite like watching the sun rise over the east coast of Spain and eating a typical European breakfast consisting of omelette, prosciutto, croissants and fruit.

I was surprised to see that this was the only reading material in the hotel lobby

The hotel is nice enough. I don't intend on spending much time here, so as long as I can put my bags down I'm content ... It seems I spoke too soon. We arrived at 9am, check-in was supposed to be at 12pm, but that ended up being 2pm. So what did we do? Wander around, naturally. My brother grudgingly tagging along, I went to see Casa Batllo (one of Antoni Gaudi's architectural triumphs), Plaza Catalunya (a little like Trafalgar Square) and La Sagrada Familia. Upon returning to the hotel we were finally shown to our room ... which had a double bed *awkward* So I returned to reception - heavy bags in tow:

Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batllo
Me: "We booked a twin room but we've been given a double.... *pointing to my brother* Es mi hermano."
Hotel Manager: "¡Ah, no lo se! Lo siento."

I wouldn't mind so much if that was the first time we've been mistaken for a couple but it's not. The amusement has worn off and now it's just uncomfortable.

Sometimes I think my brother's mentally challenged
I've discovered that speaking a bit of Spanish seems to lull natives into a false sense of security, one where they think they can embark on a proper conversation with me, when most of the time, after the first few sentences I have to ask them to slow down or ask if they speak English. It's the accent. It's good, but the content is lacking somewhat.

These are brilliant. There was even one that said "Filipinos - Chocolate con negros"

I think this proves my earlier theory

I like the acknowledgement that obese people need to sit near the front of the bus.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Seeing as my brother and I travelled by train, we had to wait till the afternoon for the rest of our family to arrive. However, due to cancelled flights they didn't arrive till late evening. Naturally I had a siesta before going off to venture down La Rambla and experience its nightlife. Did you know that there's a Museum of Erotica down there? The entry is free and you get a free drink ... Yeah, you're right, it's probably really tacky. I should avoid it at all costs....


Sunday 28th August

Went on a tour of La Sagrada Familia. Wow.

La Sagrada Familia

Look, there's a snake. How subtle of Gaudi! (If you don't understand my comment, the two statues represent Judas giving Jesus the "kiss of death")

All it takes is a "de" and the lift would take on a whole new role

I never fail to feel incredibly emotional when I am exposed to magnificent ecclesiastical structures such as Gaudi's.

Unfortunately, shortly after touring Sagrada Familia I began to feel a bit ill. Well maybe more than a bit. Burning up in an air-conditioned restaurant, ice rapidly melting on my neck and forehead, the room spinning and the imminent feeling of passing out was not fun. If my family didn't pack me into a taxi when they did I probably would have collapsed. Whoops.

An example of how most family photos turn out

Spent the next three hours experiencing a pain I had never felt before. After dozing off I felt like I needed to make up for the lost hours, so I went to venture around the Gothic Quarter (my family continued gallivanting during my 'siesta' upon my insistence).

Initially I got lost - all the streets look the same in that part of town. I finally found the Cathedral, albeit the south entrance that lead into the cloister. I quite like when churches are relatively empty. It's in the silence that one can fully appreciate the beauty of one's immediate surroundings.

The interior of the Cathedral
Continuing to Mirador de Colom I remembered that I could take a boat ride gratis with the tourist travel card I had bought. Sitting on the boat I received a message from my family, sending their wishes for good health and suggesting that maybe I can join them later at the port. Huh? I was at the port. I quickly replied telling them of my location and that they should join me on the boat ride - no reply. I was about to give up and enjoy the scenery when I spotted something - a head of unnatural blonde hair. It was my brother. Looking like a fool I stood up and started waving. First came the looks of bewilderment, then realisation and then the what-the-hell-are-you-doing-there? look.

Joined by my brother - the others didn't fancy it - we set off. What. A. Bore. I got to hear the Catalan version of 'Mack the Knife' with an accordion accompaniment though, so that was something....

How can one even attempt to be graceful with menus this big?

Walking back up La Rambla we stopped to have dinner, though it felt more like we'd stopped at a bar looking at the size of their Sangria glasses! Meh, it was "nice" nonetheless.

I do love Sangria

Monday 29th August

Went to morning Mass at the Cathedral. I'm not sure how people normally cope in warmer weather (it was 29 degrees), because boy was it hot in church. No one with bare shoulders is allowed admittance into the church - understandable - but it meant I had to wear a hoodie *she says fanning herself in desperation*

Today was beach day. I'm not really a beach person but I do like having a tan. I can't sunbathe though. After only a few minutes I can't stand the "skin cancer crawling along my skin" as a friend once put it.

No photoshop skills here. This little sign was already on the beach

It's never a good thing when something is announced over the tannoy. "Jellyfish ... peligroso ... cuidado", when you hear these words you should really think twice about getting into the water. As expected, the announcements were made in various languages. English: "Beware the jellyfish. If you are allergic don't swim" (or just have someone ready to relieve themselves on you nearby).



Tuesday 30th August

[I think my brother gets lonely. He often just talks to me about these games he plays, and all these American shows he watches even though I'm clearly doing other things or tell I him I don't understand. Right now, sitting on the train to Paris, he's telling me about shrink rays in Shangri-La used by Nazis *shrugs*]

Today is museum day (I'm losing my ability to form structurally interesting sentences). Waking up on my last day in Barcelona makes me a little sad; I wish I could stay longer.

Panoramic view from the top of Montjuic

Trust us to leave it to the last day to go to Montjuic ("Jew Hill"). I'm just glad I've finally made it up there. To the west of Ciutat Vella (where La Rambla and Plaza de Catalunya are found), Montjuic is home to the Olympic park. Practising my Spanish oral, every lunchtime without fail in Addison Hall, I never thought I'd actually be able to visit the Parque Olimpico de Barcelona in real life. I didn't think I'd enjoy the Olympic museum but some of the objects they have there are quite interesting. They have all of the Olympic torches on display, along with photos from each of the countries that have ever hosted the games.

After making sure no one saw us I realised there was a security camera in the corner of the room. I gave it a little wave as I left

It made me realise that ours will be rubbish. Barcelona had great traditional dress costumes, just like Beijing. But what about us? What are we going to wear? Morning dress? Also what is with our logo? Supposedly innovative and modern, it's more like the creation of a one-year-old who has thrown up and re-arranged the pieces of bile. Our mascots aren't any better. They're like a bad amalgamation of the aliens from The Simpsons and Futurama.

 I look like I'm crying in this photo

Anyway, back to talking about the Olympic museum, there's this machine that measures how high you jump so you can see how you compare to your favourite track and field athletes. My brother managed 37cm, me 35cm, my gran 7cm and my godmother 9cm. Now when my mother had her turn she "achieved" 6cm. Not only was that appalling but when the next person tried to have a go on the machine, it didn't work....

Afterwards we went to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), which houses all sorts of nice arty things I got to indulge my eyes on.

Art work in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC)

[I'm writing this waiting for the train guard to put down our beds. My brother's been talking for the last half hour. To whom I'm not really sure. But wait, he's just paused.

Him: "My mouth's dry. So what's going on with you?"
Me: "Can you not just sit in silence?"
Him: "No"
Me: "I quite like the silence"
Him: *pause* "I'll tell you about these other games..."
Me: "Oh please, no!"
Him: "... So there's this game with Joel...."]

He wishes he was Canadian
How fantastic! I've just been told our train is going to be an hour and a half late, meaning that we'll probably miss our train. Now I have everything crossed that I won't have to pay for new tickets considering the huge cock-up I went through with the last tickets. Oh you don't know about that? Well, in short, I booked the connecting trains with only 13 mins between them, not realising I would have to travel from Gare du Nord to Gare d'Austerlitz. "Didn't you try to exchange them?" I hear you ask. Well I did, turns out that they were non-refundable and non-exhangeable. So out of my account disappeared half a month's rent. Go on, you can say it: stupides / idiot / ¿Que estabos pensando? / silly moo.

Ugh. Two and a half hours delayed. Well there's no chance of me catching my connecting train now.

Taking a taxi from Gare d'Austerlitz I was ready to embrace the chance to practice the little French I know. However, when asked where I needed to go, I very nearly said "Gare du Nord, por favor" *sigh* It's tough being multilingual ;]

Ok, I'm safely on the Eurostar now. I have to say, I was a wee bit worried that I'd be stranded in Paris - seeing as I didn't have enough money to buy new tickets. It could have been worse though I guess, I could have been stranded in Dundee *chortle*

[I've had the pleasure of sitting in front of young children. Cue the expected screaming, fighting and the standard kicking of the back of my chair. I'm thinking terrible things readers. I won't go into detail as you'll think badly of me but the vivd scenes involve a large frying pan.]

Anyway, long story cut short, after a brief - almost pleading - explanation we were quickly ushered on to the next train bound for London. To think I'll be back in my wee East Coast town in less than a week is hard to believe. Where did the four months go?


I couldn't upload all 600+ photos so cluck click here if you want to see what London should really look like in the summer.

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