Jimmy Buffet @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. On assignment for the Houston Press. The review can be found here
It’s a little on the cold side, but the sun was out when we woke up with some clouds here and there. We decided to make our way to Tibidabo, the tallest point overlooking the city of Barcelona. The trip involved catching a short train ride to the outskirts of town, then catching the Tram Blau up the hill a ways to the funicular and then on up to the park.
We caught the train OK but found that the Tram Blau only ran on Fridays and Saturdays so we were left taking a bus up to get to the funicular. No problem, it only took us a bit to sort it out.
When we got to Tibidabo the clouds started gathering and there was a brief rain shower. We took shelter in Temple del Sagrat Cor and grabbed some photos.
Once the rains passed we walked around and took in the view, which is pretty amazing.
You can see all of Barcelona and on to the port and the ocean beyond.
Once we had our fill, we headed back down the mountain the way we came and all was going swimmingly until we got on the subway train to go back to the hotel. Without warning the train just stopped dead in the middle of a dark tunnel. All the power was just gone. Now keep in mind that Cynthia HATES being underground. She deals with it, but she simply doesn’t like it. To have the train just stop dead in a tunnel deep underground is one of her worst nightmares.
Fortunately, the power outage only lasted about 30 second or so and we were back on our way. I think Cynthia would have cracked if it had lasted too long.
Once we got back to the hotel and regrouped we decided to head out to Park Guell, a park designed by Antoni Guadi.
One of the things Cynthia really likes about Barcelona is the wild Quaker Parrot population. There are everywhere, but really show up in large numbers at Park Guell. And since Cynthia has a tradition of dropping one of the feathers she has collected from her dear departed Mr. Zippers she thought Park Guell would be a good place to do it.
Getting to the park was not so easy. The subway drops you off nearby and you have to hike up a very steep, San Francisco like street to get to some escalators which then take you to another climb up the back of the park. All in all it was pretty exhausting on our already travel weary feet.
After we dropped the feather we walked around the park a bit before heading back down the hill and to the hotel.
At this point we’ve been on the vacation awhile and we had home the day after tomorrow. That’s one full day left. We’re pretty tired so we were in for the evening. Tomorrow we’ll give Barcelona a last “hurrah” and pack up to come home.
For our second day back in Barcelona we decided to head off to Santa Maria de Montserrat which is only about an hour outside the city by train.
Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located in the Montserrat mountain.
To get there we took the subway to the Espanya rail station and then purchased tickets for the train and the cable car that take you up to the monastery itself.
When the train drops you off at the Arie cable car station you walk up a some steps and are greeted by the site of the cable cars heading up and down the mountain that the monastery wayyyy up on the cliff face, It is just a little intimidating.
It’s only a 5 minute ride and for me it was no big deal. Others (like Cynthia) found it to be somewhat nerve wracking.
The views riding were amazing and the view from the top was just spectacular.
We wandered around the complex and we wanted to continue on up to St. Jerome but the funicular train as closed for repairs and we didn’t have the energy to make the hike up the side of the mountain.
We did get to see and hear the Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir in the basilica
We also climbed up to touch la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”) one of the black Madonnas of Europe
This also gave us a nice view of the basilica
We spent the better part of the day just walking around taking pictures
Eventually we wound up at restaurant in the Hotel Abat Cisneros. This place was incredible! The restaurant looks like one that you would need a coat and tie to eat in. But they gladly seated the bedraggled tourists and treated us to one of the best meals I have had in my life.
After we had eaten our meal we made our way back to the hotel with a quick stop at the El Corte Ingles for some supplies (water, chips, etc.) and called it a day. We watched some TV and I even downloaded some English programs to watch on the laptop just to give us a chance to wind down and get away from the news of Libya an Japan that has been a constant backdrop to this magnificent vacation.
We have two more full days here before coming home. We’re hopeful for more good weather. But for now, sleep.
Valencia all wrapped up and tied in a fiery bow we made our way back to Barcelona. We didn’t have much sleep so were pretty tired for the 4 hour train ride. Once we got checked into the hotel our spirits were bolstered by some sunny weather, clean clothes and proper bathroom break so we headed off to the top of Montjuïc to take in the spectacular views of the city.
The best way to get to the top is to take the Teleferic de Montjuïc cable cars which can be picked up after you ride up part of the way on the funicular train. You can also ride the other cable car from the other side of the bay, but we decided to go this way instead. And a good thing to as the main cable cars were not operating due to high winds over the bay.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize the funicular train could be picked up at the same metro stop that brought us most of the way to Montjuïc. We ended up walking that part of the distance in our fruitless search. No big deal, the day was sunny and cool and the walk didn’t hurt.
Once we found the teleferic we took it all the way up to the top and the views were just spectacular!
The best shot of the trip is this one of the Sagrada Familia. I took it with the 70-200mm lens connected to a 2X teleconvrter so I was effectively shooting at 400mm.
After we came back down to the city the full brunt of our exhaustion hit us like a ton of bricks. We found some food and then headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep, our first sleep in some time that would not be punctuated by constant fireworks.
We stayed up late last night to watch the fireworks at 1:00 am. Suffice to say, we were pretty tired by the time we hit the sack.
During Las Fallas there is a tradition called La Despertà where each morning starting at 8:00 am marching bands go down the streets waking everyone up. These bands are followed by men detonating large fireworks that make a lot of noise.
For the most part, we’ve not encountered this experience on our street. Our hotel is a bit out of the way so they don’t tend to make it to where we are. Yes, we do hear the fireworks late into the night and then starting up in the morning. It’s almost midnight as I write this and it sounds like a war zone out there.
But this morning La Despertà found our quiet little corner of the city and let loose with a barrage of fireworks that seemed to go on for about 15 minutes. We didn’t hear any bands playing, but we may have slept through that part. But the explosions could not be ignored. We woke up while it was going on, but we were so tired we fell back to sleep as soon as it was over.
We ended up sleeping in till about 10:30 am. This meant we missed breakfast at the hotel so we set off to a local restaurant.
After breakfast we just wanted to walk around and take in the sites. The first thing we wanted to look at was the progress of the Virgin being built from the carnations brought by the Fallera during the Ofrenda.
She’s coming along quite nice.
Today was day 2 of the Ofrenda so there would be more processions blocking and clogging the streets. You can’t turn a corner without running into them.
Cynthia wanted to go to the Torres De Quart to honor the tradition we have of releasing a feather from her dear depated bird, Mr. Zippers. A tradition we started several trips ago. I was not in any condition to climb the structure, so Cynthia climbed up on her own and let the feather go.
We had a good time continuing to explore the city and then we went back (yet again) to our favorite little lunch spot La Pappardelli. We again had some local Valencian wine recommended by our waitress.
Since we ate here regularly on our last trip and we’ve been regulars again on this trip the staff treat us very well. One of the waitresses even said they think of us as family. That was very kind. They always give me a complimentary grappa at the end of the meal which I find to be very cool and a nice finish to the meal.
After lunch we did some more exploring.
After which we headed back to the hotel to rest a bit before my big project.
I wanted to go back to the City Of Arts And Sciences to take some photos. But I was very particular in wanting to go just before sunset to take advantage of the “golden hour” which is that time just after the sun goes down and before it actually gets dark.
We’ve just returned from that excursion and I think I got some VERY nice pics which I will be posting before too long.
Tomorrow is La Crema and The Nic De Foc (Night Of Fire) so it’s going to be a long and exciting day!
The sun came out today in all its glory. Yay! We got up and had breakfast and then made our way to Gullivar Park and then on to The City Of Arts And Sciences, the fantastic complex of buildings designed by Santiago Calatrava.
We spent a good deal of time here, just walking in the abundant sunshine and taking photos.
When we were done we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for lunch. On our way we encountered some of the thousands of people preparing for the Ofrenda, an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary in the square next to the cathedral.
Here you can see the giant Virgin and the lattice work where the flowers will build her dress.
It’s hard to convey in pictures, but there are thousands of women in traditional garb who will be marching into the square for the next two days. All of them carrying flowers to complete the dress of the Virgin Mary.
We grabbed some lunch and then took a break back at the hotel room before venturing out again. The festival is in full swing and the Ofrenda has streets blocked all over town as the Falleras and their escorts arrive from all corners to make their offerings.