The flight had been a long one, crowded and noisy, with mediocre food and cramped seating; your typical Atlantic air crossing. But we held hope of some rest in a comfortable bed in our comfortable apartment, right off the Rambla. But it didn't work out as planned.
We had arrived early at the nearly-abandonded Barcelona Airport, greeted by sleepy Spanish customs officials who dutifully stamped our passports. We exchanged some dollars for Euros and hopped on the A-1 bus to downtown, and arrived at our apartment about 8:30 a.m., before its reception staff. After an hour wait, we got the word: We could not move in until 3:00 p.m. What do you do for six hours, dragging around luggage and in dire need of sleep and a shower?
What to do? We staggered over to a nearby plaza. It turned out to be Barcelona's most lively square, and one of our favorite sites of the city.
We had stumbled upon the Placa Reial. Built in the 1850s, it is adorned with palms and carriage
lanterns designed by Gaudí.
"Placa" is Catalan for Plaza, and the "C" should have a little serif at the bottom to be accurate. We were confused at first by the reference to Placa Garibaldi, the famous Mexico City gathering space, but figured some enterprising city planner arranged for some sister city exchange with the "Ciutat de Mexic," catalan for Mexico's capital.
There is something magical in these old 19th century plazas. You feel it as you dine in the chilly night air, yet warmed by the musical sounds of buskers playing everything from gypsy violins and accordions to familiar American Rock tunes on acoustic guitars.
Click here for more photos of the Placa Reial.
We made it through that first day in Barcelona. After convincing apartment staff to keep watch over our luggage. We kept awake by walking the streets of old Barcelona--the Barri Gotíc, tasting tapas along the way, falling asleep while sitting up, and at one point, I even stumbled to my knees.
As we said many times during the tour, "Being a tourist is tough work."
Barcelona is a visual feast. Click here to see some photos of Gaudí's work and other photos from Barcelona.