A Travellerspoint blog

A Day in Barcelona

sunny
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Day 59 Saturday 13 November - “Barcelona – Visit 1”

Barcelona is every good thing we'd been told to expect and we experienced none of the negatives we'd been warned about. There certainly was no hint of any pickpockets or other intimidating behaviour we'd been warned about.

Started the day on the Barcelona Bus Turistic, a very popular tour to the extent that the bus filled up after about three stops and after that they only let on the number of people that had got off. The commentary was multi-lingual and once we worked out how to select the channel my only problem was keeping the ear-buds in my ears. My ears must be deformed or too big or too old but I just couldn't keep the things in place.

Most of the streets are lined with trees and this proved to be a bit of a challenge when trying to photograph something. We were struck by the number of imposing and massive buildings, many of them dating back well over 200 years.

Two hours on the bus and we were back where we started. Decided to walk for a while. There's a waterfront area, Port Vell, with a huge shopping complex and many restaurants. It is also home for thousands of sailing yachts.

Next we wandered up the La Rambla, a wide avenue with a very wide median strip. At the Southern end there were dozens of small stalls setting jewellery and other knick-knacks. Then there was a section of restaurant seating mixed in with quick draw artists and various street performers. People who dress up in striking costumes and invite you to have your photo taken with them. This gave way to an area of mainly flower stalls with many spectacular blooms on display. Towards the Northern end there was a section devoted mainly to cage birds and other pets.

Along the way we'd made a detour into the Mercat St Josep La Boqueria. The type of market I'd hoped to find in Amsterdam, Paris and London. Full of every conceivable form of food-stuff and very colourfully displayed. The crowds on La Rambla had been more than you'd experience in Sydney, inside the market it was like the Beijing underground at peak time. We moved about one step forward then two sideways and generally went with the flow.

We reached the end of La Rambla at the Plaça Catalunya and decided to take a different route back. It started well as we strolled down the Avenue Portal de l'Àngel, a wide street with no cars or buses. Then I decided to duck down some small alleys that weren't marked on the map. We came out on La Rambla near where a street vended was roasting chestnuts, we chose another lane way and after many turns, twists and some backtracking we found La Rambla again, right near the Chestnut vendor. When I came out in almost the same place for the third time I decided I'd had enough and we followed La Rambla back to the hotel.

This is likely to be the last of these for a while as we board the cruise ship for the next four weeks. I'll see if there's a reasonable deal on Internet access and will try to keep you updated, they may be infrequent and brief.

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Posted by greynomadm 00:21 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

London to Barcelona

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Day 58 Friday 12 November - “London to Barcelona”

Not much to report today, most of the day having been spent in transit. Mini-cab from the hotel to Kings Cross station – much larger and busier than we expected. It is connected to the St Pancras station.

The tube takes us along the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Terminal 3, the trip takes just over an hour and costs us all of £ 9 for the two of us. We must have walked 2 or 3 Km finding our way to the check-in counters and then the departure lounges, it is a massive place. We are transported from the departure gate to the aircraft on a bus and as a final farewell we experienced a light shower of rain as we board the aircraft.

The flight to Barcelona was uneventful and after walking another 1 or 2 Km we picked up our baggage. We found the Tourist Information office and were directed to express bus which took us to the heart of the city for only 10,10 €. From the Plaça de Catalunya the taxi took us for a bit of a ride (I think). Anyway we got to the hotel and it was much better than we expected given the area.

The room is on the 5th floor and is quite spacious and obviously totally renovated recently, everything is ultra modern including tricoloured LEDs in strips to provide general lighting over the bed-head. The restaurant across the lane was recommended and was certainly very popular. We had a simple meal, bought some fruit at the supermarket and retired to the room.

The WiFi doesn't reach all the way up here so I'll have to make the connection from the lobby. Sorry, no images this time.

Posted by greynomadm 23:20 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

London From the Thames

all seasons in one day
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Day 57 Thursday 11 November - “London From the Thames”

It doesn't look too promising when we set off this morning, strong winds, heavy showers and a bit on the chilly side. We catch the bus into Camden Town and ride the tube to Tower Hill, the station near the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We walk around the Tower and onto the Bridge, it is indeed an impressive structure.

We find our way to the wharf where the City Cruise Boat takes us down-river to Greenwich a trip of some 30 minutes. Both sides of the river are lined by high-priced apartments. Some are in the form of converted warehouses while others have been recently built. Some of the historic points of interest were identified by one of the crew who appeared to have a quite thorough knowledge of all the pubs.

We turned around and returned to the Tower Bridge wharf where some additional people came aboard. We then headed up-stream and passed under a number of bridges one of which is being rebuilt. The Blackfriars bridge is a Victorian era rail bridge which is being widened to accommodate an extra railway track to assist in coping with the expected crows during the 2012 Games.

Just as we approached the London Eye the sky opened up and dumped a torrential downpour on us. When we got off the vessel water was running down the steps like a river. Within minutes our trouser-legs were totally soaked. We had to skip the planned visit to Westminster Abbey as we figured we wouldn't be able to take photos anyway and we walked up Whitehall where yesterday we were held up by the protesters.

We walked through the Horse Guard barracks and finally to Trafalgar Square. We then wandered along the Strand and stopped at Charing Cross Station to spend 30 pence for a pee. Jenny posted some cards at a traditional pillar box.

We walked past Australia House to St Paul's Cathedral and avoided another drenching by retreating to the tube station. It was starting to get dark so we decided to to stay underground and head back to Camden Town. There had obviously been another dumping. Caught the bus home but got off a bit early, fortunately no rain, just a very strong wind.

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Posted by greynomadm 11:02 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

London Ho Ho Day 1

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Day 56 Wednesday 10 November - “London Ho Ho Day 1”

Very brisk this morning and for the first time in a while, there's no rain. We walk down to Camden Town, the nearest tube station, about 30 minutes away. A very helpful lady at the ticket counter sorts out our ticket requirements, we buy two lots of Day Travel-cards, one set for today another for tomorrow. They cover the inner two zones of London for travel after 9:30 (off-peak).

We set off to find a meeting point for our Hop On Hop Off Bus. We manage to find our way to the Embankment Station. Pretty simple, all on the one line. The trains are frequent, fast and clean. There are no less than 13 lines that create a spider's web of interconnecting lines servicing over 300 stations.

We happen to find the bus just as we arrive and settled back to enjoy the streets, squares and other scenes previously only seen on TV or read about in books and on-line. All goes well until we approach the area of Westminster where there are signs that there are problems ahead. Up to now we'd moved along quite well but when we advanced less than 3 bus lengths during about 10 cycles of the traffic lights we figured there was something wrong. We thought it may have been the barricading of the roads in preparation for Remembrance Day events but then decided they'd have plenty of time to do that overnight. We'd also observed a very large group of men and women in 'office' attire crowding the footpath outside an office building. Thought of bomb scare, false fire alarm or just an evacuation drill, never did find out.

It took some time to find the cause of our delay, over 50,000 students protesting against increases in tuition fees. Buses literally parked, trucks and taxis at a standstill, we crawled up Whitehall. We finally broke free of the grid-lock but I was in need of an urgent toilet stop, so we got off. Rather than risk sitting in more traffic for even more time we decided to do our own thing.

I've always had an image of Covent Garden Market as a giant fresh food market, so we hopped on the tube and found it. How disappointing, lots of 'junk' stalls, some interesting food outlets but no fresh produce to speak of.

We decided to visit Hyde Park Corner where the recently opened Australian War Memorial is located. Back on the tube and managed some line changes and got there in short order. The Memorial is unusual but very impressive.

By now it is getting late for us so we decide to check out our proposed route to Heathrow on Friday, so we travel to King's Cross and take the opportunity to revisit St Pancras where we switch to the line to Camden Town. A quick visit to a supermarket and we catch the bus to our hotel. Our 1-day card has served us well.

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Posted by greynomadm 23:07 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Paris to London

rain
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Day 55 Tuesday 9 November – Paris to London

Our last breakfast in Paris and despite the continued light rain we decide to walk to the station. We check through to the Eurostar departure lounge. First check to ensure we have a ticket, all very helpful and friendly. Then through French Immigration followed by British Immigration and a reduced form of an airport security check of us and our luggage. A very comfortable lounge with what looked like 'Duty Free' stores.

A long walk down the platform, we are in coach 2 which is all the way to the front of the train. Adequate storage for large luggage and very comfortable seats. Right on time we're off and within minutes we were rocketing through the French countryside looking green and drenched. Brought to mind that this is where the trench warfare of WWI took place, I can't come close to appreciating the bone-chilling cold that must have been endured by the diggers.

Smooth as you'd like we slip into the tunnel and before we know it we pop out on the British side. The St Pancras station is very modern but built in the style of the grand stations of Europe very clean and it was good to be able to chat with the staff. Found an ATM and withdrew some £ sterling.

We found a London Black Cab and had an interesting chat with the lady driver. Scared us a bit when she said that in 15 years she'd never taken passengers to the Corner House Hotel on the Hampton Rd. The place turns out to be spotlessly clean and as there was no lift we asked for and were provided a ground floor room. The lady at the front desk was most friendly and made sure we were happy with the arrangement.

A bit cramped but no worse than a ship board cabin, most of the room being taken up by a king sized bed.

Settled in and towards evening walked down the road for a quick meal and enjoyed some TV in English.

Bit short on photos again but hope to make up for that tomorrow.

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Posted by greynomadm 09:11 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (3)

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