Day 33 – Sleepy sightseers see Sagrada and Science Center

Day 33 = Friday, April 13, 2012

Our day began, as usual, with everyone sleeping in. In fact, we all got up so late that we didn’t leave the apartment until 2:00 PM. Speaking of the apartment, I added some photos of it to yesterday’s post.

We walked to La Sagrada Familia basilica, which is just a couple of blocks from our apartment.  Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece was surrounded by fencing and scaffolding, which is fitting as it has been under construction since 1882.

We did not actually go into the basilica, as the tours in English were not for starting for ages, so we made plans to go later in our visit. Instead, we hopped on the bus, Gus, and headed over to CosmoCaixa, Barcelona’s science museum. This was no great loss for Quinland, who was way more interested in this guy in front of Sagrada Familia:

Interested in his ability to make giant bubbles, of course; she’s not checking out twenty-something guys in public squares. (There was also a headless guy that you could get your picture taken with, but he was charging for the honor, so I don’t have a photo of him.)

So, as the bubble guy would indicate, the science center was a much better choice than visiting another church. We all liked CosmoCaixa; there was an interactive exhibit on sound and light that was nicely aligned with Quinland’s school science topics; an excellent case filled with mammal brains of all sizes; a special exhibition on epidemics which D and Q enjoyed, and a cafe for Christine to get some much-needed tea! (The rest of us are caffeine free, so we forget that some people need to stop to get hot beverages.)

The sun was shining beautifully, so after getting our fill of exhibits, there was some frisbee to be played in the courtyard…

… and a stand-up picnic to be had at the bus stop. Who knew one could fit so many sandwich fixings into a single camera bag?

The bus dropped us off at one end of the Avinguda Diagonal, so we took a stroll down the avenue to our apartment.  I found a pharmacy and paid a zillion euros for a replacement medication organizer, but it’s really spectacular: the days of the week are all written in Catalan. (Diluns, Dimarts, etc.)

We dropped by another Gaudi building (conveniently located on the Diagonal) – an apartment building called Casa Milà, otherwise known as La Pedrera, or “The Quarry.” Built at the turn of the last century (1905-1910, to be precise; the whole “last century” thing kind of freaks me out), the local government objected to so many things about the project – and ordered so many changes to be made – that Gaudi almost quit. Typically for us, we opted out of the pricy peek into the interior. Still, it was awesome to see the apartments in person; you can really see how Gaudi’s undulating style influenced a building like Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna.We moseyed back home after this, where we indulged in another round of quiche and groceries. Christine and I went out for a glass of wine at the bar next to our building, since we had a year’s worth of catching up to do. A drunken local came over and introduced himself, complete with cheek-kissing and the announcement, “In Spain, we kiss two times!” This has become a mantra with Quinland and me, which we use on any likely occasion (“In the Netherlands, we kiss three times!”) and plenty of not-so-likely ones as well.

I apparently had more wine than was good for me (two glasses – I swear, I am the cheapest drunk on earth these days), as I forgot to take my meds. I slept horribly as a result. Lesson learned! (That should probably be a question mark, not an exclamation point…)

Expenditures: CosmoCaixa tickets, tea and cookies at the museum, more quiches and pizza from Kuk, two glasses of wine.

Experiences: My first time seeing anything by Gaudi! (David’s an old hand at this, as he traveled to Barcelona when he was on the Munich program).

Day 32 – Off to Barcelona (after a very long delay…)

Day 32 = Thursday, April 12, 2012

I did set my alarm for 3:45, but for 3:45 PM. Thankfully, Quinland had set her iPod alarm for 3:50 AM, so at least we were awake when our landlord, Cristina, arrived at 4. She talked our ears off while we were trying to get ready and out the door, which distracted us so much that we neglected to check the apartment before we left, which caused us to leave my weekly medication holder and our toothbrushes and toothpaste on the bathroom counter. Argh.

Because we had to get to the airport before 5, we could not take public transportation as nothing was running that early. David had talked to a taxi driver at a taxi stand the day before and arranged for him to pick us up at 4:15. We got to the airport in plenty of time, only to find that the plane was delayed, and instead of leaving at 6:30 as scheduled, would not be leaving until “at least 10:00.”

We amused ourselves playing Dominion for a little while, but the plane continued to be delayed (we later found out it was due to a local strike). Quinland fell asleep on the floor of the airport at one point as we waited in line for a boarding call that never came. The plane finally left Porto at 12:25 PM, six hours late.

We all slept – or attempted to sleep – on the plane. Sadly, we discovered when we picked up our luggage in Barcelona that the airline had broken the wheel assembly on our new suitcase (the one which we had purchased because it had wheels). We were told that they could not recompense us in any way, as a) for all they knew, it might have been broken previously, and b) it still rolled. They were right –  it did roll – but it did not roll well, and the wheel could fall off at any moment. In our cranky, sleepy state, this news was, shall we say, not well received.

From the airport, we took the train and Metro to our new Barcelona neighborhood. It was a long walk with the wonky wheel from the Metro station to the apartment, but when we arrived, David, the apartment landlord, let us in and got us all set up. We unpacked and checked email (happy to have internet again after the boredom of the airport!) and then went back to sleep.

I neglected to take any photos of the apartment (seriously – falling down on the job, I know) so I found these lovely ones at this website, though I seem to have no control over their sizes. (The bedroom shot is classic, since we spent so much time sleeping in Barcelona.)

David woke up first and went out to explore the surrounding area for cheap eating and grocery-shopping options. He arrived back with an assortment of quiches and hand pies and pizza slices from a local takeaway. My friend Christine arrived from Ireland shortly after that and we had a happy reunion. The three of us were pretty antisocial, though – we all went back to bed soon after dinner. Barcelona fun – and visiting with Christine – would have to wait until we woke up.

By the way – for the next few posts, every time you read the word “Barcelona,” you should imagine it pronounced to the tune of “My Sharona.” Try it a few times: “Bar-celona.”

Do do doo do do doo do doo dodododo do do doo do do doo Bar-celona…

Expenditures: Taxi to airport; hot chocolate and pastry at airport; Metro tickets; apartment; dinner.

Experiences: Our first Ryanair flight – and our first long airport delay. Reunited with Christine!

Day 31 – Packing it up in Porto

Day 31 = Wednesday, April 11, 2012

After a morning of internet searching yesterday (and a lot of Google Translate help as well), I finally got a response from a reasonable therapeutic massage place near our apartment that could take me today!

On my way there, I took our laundry to a drop-off laundry place, due to the laundry detergent fiasco.

Now that the swelling in my foot had gone down, I could get a proper workout on my leg, so my appointment ran really long (no complaints, there). When I realized what time it was, I had to literally run in the pouring rain to get there before the laundry closed. If I didn’t make it by 6:00 pm, we would lose all of our clothing, since we were leaving for the airport at 4:15 the next morning. I ran into David just outside the laundry, as he was afraid of the same thing, so we got to walk home and get drenched together.

Packing takes ages, so while David cooked dinner and cleaned up the apartment, I packed our now-clean clothes. According to the fish scale, we were seriously over the allowed weight for our bags, so we jettisoned a few things: my black skirt, David’s green pants, Quinland’s conditioner, our DK Portugal guidebook. Quinland heroically volunteered to give up her worn-once dress shoes. We stayed up until 12:45 am making these decisions, with the alarm set for 3:45 to meet with the landlady for checkout. Ugh.

We neglected to take any photos of the apartment, but here are a few from Cristina’s ad on Hostelworld:

The apartment was pretty good-sized. Quinland was excited to have a TV that was loaded with movies; we were all thrilled to have internet in our very own place.

Q’s room was tiny – barely more than a closet, really – but she had her own space again.

The kitchen was gorgeous – new and large and shiny. There was a full-sized fridge, which was a far cry from leaving our food sitting out for five days, as in the hotel room in Braga. Nothing like warm yogurt and slimy cheese to kill your appetite.

Adeus, Porto apartment!

Expenditures: Massage; laundry.

Experiences: Massage from an osteopath, and a chatty one, no less; very informative, I must say. Added to this, I have never – even at home – dropped off my laundry and had it washed, dried and folded. Dry cleaning, yes, but not the whole shebang. David’s dress shirt even came back in a fancy plastic bag.