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November 2009

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Barcelona (Part II)

Written by , Posted in Adventures

Sunday was just as beautiful as Saturday. We spent much of the day outside, although with much less walking than the previous day. After a very quick breakfast (hot chocolate again, of course), we made our way to La Catedral. Sunday services were going on, but they still let us tourists wander around (quietly) in it. After that dose of religion it was off to bow before a different idol – chocolate (or xocolata in Catalan). We went to the Museo Xocolata, where our ticket was a dark chocolate bar, and we learned about the history of chocolate production. Oddly there was also an exhibit on the solar system, but that was completely in Spanish with no images of chocolate, so I have no idea how it related.

After a quick metro ride (seriously, their system is so efficient and well marked) we made it to Park Guell. It’s smaller than I imagined, but still awesome. A friend described the City as looking a bit like Candy Land, and she’s right. It’s like a child’s imagination almost, and the buildings and fences and ceilings in the park were no different. There were loads of people up there, and we were rewarded for our hike up to the park with a stunning view of Barcelona, as well as some fun music played by local artists.

We headed back down the hill and all the way to the Mediterranean to visit the aquarium. It’s alleged to be the best in the Mediterranean. That may be true. They do have an excellent shark exhibit. However – not worth the price of admission in my opinion. After a couple of hours on the marina we headed back into La Ribera (I believe) and went in search of a few bars that Lonely Planet told us were good and open on Sundays. We unfortunately were not able to confirm their quality, as ALL were closed. No wonder it’s a Lonely Planet … (I suggest a different guide of you choose to visit Barcelona – Allegra had the brief one, I had the full length one, and while both were recently updated, both had a lot of errors).

Anyway, we managed to find some other really excellent places, including a cute cafe (where we had chocolate and churros), a great off the beaten path pottery and crafts store, and more. The street we spent the most time in was Carrer de Argentina, so if you find yourself in Barcelona, I suggest just wandering down it. It feels less tourist-y than other places in the city centre. It also has Santa Maria del Mar, another gorgeous cathedral. There was someone playing beautiful organ music, and almost none of the artificial lights were on (it was twilight by the time we visited), and it was both spooky and awesome. We popped into La Fianna, an adorable bar / restaurant for some cava before our final meal of tapas, then called it a night.

Monday we almost made it to the airport without incident; however, the rumors about pickpockets and Barcelona are, we can unfortunately confirm, quite true. But we both made it to our planes and back to our respective countries.

Although, funny story: I was almost not let back into the UK. When I came here originally back in September, I flew through Ireland. I got a stamp from them, but when I came to Heathrow I wasn’t sent through customs, as the UK/Ireland have a special relationship. So my visa was never activated, apparently. When I was speaking with the Border Agent at Gatwick, she asked to see my documents. I literally said “what documents – my visa’s in there.” She didn’t even look up, but asked for them again. I said they were at home – that I’d come here already in September, through Ireland. She was never rude, and I can’t tell if she was annoyed with me, but she asked again, and I told her I didn’t know what to say – I didn’t carry the letter from the school with me, and it was in my residence hall. She got up and looked at some laminated sheet of paper, then came back and asked what school I was at, then asked for my student ID (which I had on me, thank goodness), activated my visa and sent me on my way. Yikes. I’m sure it would have all worked out, but that’s a problem I certainly hadn’t thought I’d encounter. Note to future UK students from the US – don’t arrive via Ireland!

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