Travelling to Parc Guell, the guidebooks warned us, is either via the Metro and a 20 minute climb to a base camp at the foot of the Parc, or by the bus to the front gate and a soft perambulation down the hill. What a lovely day for a bus ride. Super efficient Metro to the Placa Catalunya (I should point out here that Pip has created a trigger in my brain that plays the Plucka Duck song whenever I think of any of the numerous Placas in town), not to the Placa Duck, which would in fact be the Placa Pato. Also, while sidetracked with ducks, I will register here my delight at traversing cities with efficient and effective and cheap and easy to operate public transport. How come a city of 1.6 million can have a Metro system like this! I already know the answer and it’s to do with Briscastle’s world class urban sprawl and attachment to detached housing.
New Year’s Eve: Our third full day in Barcelona. Our apartment was proving comfortable and convenient and we were comfortably and conveniently using the wonders of FaceTime to beam new year’s wishes to our Briswegian peeps. We undertook several iPad tours of our abode after breakfast and I had Facebooked an arrangement with a former colleague from Briscastle whose European holiday had crossed course with ours here in Barcelona to meet for a coffee in Parc Guell. Arrangements were made via a series of text messages passed instantly and interestingly from her Optus Australia phone to my Estonian provided SIM, which was, I guess, rather convoluted and expensive but begged for one of those ‘gee whizz’ moments when you realise that messages are circumnavigating the world to travel across town.
But back to the Plucka Catalunya and our search for the number 24. Well, it was really our wait for the number 24 which arrived quite quickly for a quiet Saturday morning, even though our arrival at the stop was just as the preceding number 24 lurched off without us. The bus ride was most enjoyable (did I say that aloud?) and the bus even had an on board sign that told passengers the name and number of the next bus stop (sound like a grass-chewing yokel…) and delivered us precisely to the point that the guidebook said it would.
The bus had scenically driven pasts a couple of the better known Gaudi buildings in the City, so we were able to warm up number young son for the mosaicy, swirly, melty archi-fest that lay ahead. We started in the stoney, viaduct area at the back and photographed our way up past the house at the top, passing itinerant flamenco-style guitarists, players of instruments that I know not the names of and a band called The Mananas, before wheeling back toward the famous park bench and our rendezvous with Yasmin from the south side of Brisbane. I kept texting her our location. She kept texting me hers. We discovered that although I had correctly located myself near a cafe, I had not factored in multiple cafes – hence a longer than expected wait, during which time it was pointed out to me that perhaps Yasmin, whom I may have spent a tiny amount of time gently and playfully teasing over the preceding couple of years might have been perpetrating an excellent payback – heck, she may not have been in Barcelona at all! No. No, she wound’t do that – would she? Just as I ran my finger around my collar in slight concern, she appeared with her daughter. There followed catch-up and travel chat over coffee before well-wishing and bon voyaging preceded two sets of Brislaskan travellers continuing on their holiday roads.
We continued our downwards perambulations via a guy who cut silhouettes out of black card to whom we thrust our number young son and a few euros and came away a few seconds later with a credible profile likeness and a memory of the Brisbournian Exhibition showbag pavilion. The Parc by the way is beautiful and so bloody arty…
The bottom of the hill got us to the bus stop. The bus stop got us the number 24. The number 24 got us back to the City. The City got us La Rambla, which got us to the Mercat de Boquaria which led to a kilo or so of green langoustines for dinner. We accompanied the langoustines home on the Metro, and given it was New Year’s and there must have been something going on somewhere, we opted for afternoon rests, a dinner at home and another Metro trip back to Placa Catalunya to find where the action was.
The action really wasn’t. True – the riot police were setting up barriers around the Placa and there were a large number of folk cruising La Rambla and the surrounding streets, but there was no definite NYE vibe. We amused ourselves looking at the particularly pretty lights and passed by the dog-boy (an unfortunate beggar who seemed to have his legs on backwards so that he had to walk on all fours) we had seen earlier in the day, but apart from an increased number of rowdy youth and touts selling single cans of beer, plastic zip top bags with 12 grapes, roses, flying toys, squeaky mouth things, ashtrays made from soft drink cans and fans, there was little to suggest an civically organized NYE event. We walked out to the new Maritime centre, passed rows of African boys selling fake bags, belts and lighters and back again to catch a cab home and make ready our own 12 grapes for midnight. Pip had chosen specially packaged tins of midnight grapes for our own shot at new year’s luck and all we had to do was wait 35 minutes to hear the clock chime 12. Eating 12 grapes is not too difficult, so I should be so lucky. There were loud firecracker bangs, muted cheering and general rowdiness from the boys in the New York Cafe over the road. There were neighbours on their balconies and fireworks somewhere nearby as I downed the grapes.
We lasted maybe 20 minutes more before the lure of a comfortable warm bed proved too great. Happy New Year to all.