After spending a glorious afternoon in Jardin des Plantes, I boarded the night train from Austerlitz to Barcelona. Unlike my earlier adventures with overnight trains in Eastern Europe, I opted for a sleeping chair (instead of a bed). The chair reclined extensively and featured a leg support much like a lazy boy. In theory, then, I should have been able to sleep soundly. However, I did not. The whole experience reminded me of the “lay flat” seats that Air Canada has in the business class of the A340-500. The seats don´t quite lay flat, and the incline is just enough to be uncomfortable. Nonetheless, when I stepped off the train in Barcelona, I felt a surge of energy and knew I would like the city.
I left the train station and took the excellent metro system to Hostal Barcelona Sant Andreu, which was run by a great woman. The hostel wasn’t as lively as some of the other places I’ve been, but it was decent enough. After dropping my bags at the hostel, I really crushed the city. I visited the following sites:
- Monument a Colom, a tribute to Columbus whose 1492 voyage was financed by Spain
- The fabulously Gothic Barcelona Cathedral
- The Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, and the surrounding labyrinth of alleys that house wonderful shops, bars and restaurants
- Gaudi’s sprawling and fantastic Sagrada Familia, perhaps the city’s most iconic building
- Torre Agbar, which seems like a pretty direct rip off of Norman Foster’s 30 St Mary Axe, but was still striking for its vivid colours
- The Museu d’Art Comtemporani de Barcelona, or MACBA for short
After all that, I grabbed a variety of foods on Las Ramblas, seemingly the vein that supplies life to the rest of the city.
With approximately 1.6 million inhabitants, Barcelona isn’t that large a city. However, it has one of the best metro systems I’ve ever used. It’s well funded, so it’s inexpensive, clean, extensive and popular. It’s all the things that TTC and GO could be if the various government agencies were serious about encouraging smart urban development and really wanted to reduce automotive pollution (and improve the personal lives of citizen who might benefit from escaping soul-crushing commutes).
Anyway, after my night on Las Ramblas, I fell into a deep sleep. I rose the next day, grabbed a complete breakfast (which in Spain seems to consist of a croissant, a Danish and a coffee with milk) and still had plenty of time to visit Montjuic, home of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. My favourite thing about the museum was its setting, it’s perched on a hill that rises about 150 m from the harbour, and offers spectacular views in all directions. Given the heat, the climb to the top was a challenge, but well worth it for the opportunity to see the splendid Olympic diving pool (one of the prettiest public pools I’ve ever seen), and several lovely parks whose lush trees offer some respite from the sun. Of course, one could just take the cable car to the top, but I think that sort of thing should be reserved for for decrepit people like my mum. Ha ha. After exploring the Montjuic, I reluctantly made my way to the train station, fetched my luggage from the locker and boarded the train to Madrid.