Thursday, June 28, 2007

Barcelona - A nice city indeed

Normally first 24 hours to any new city are not always pleasant. Unknown foreign environment, suspicious over eager sellers, lack of familiar company and so on. Barcelona is one of the few cities that I enjoyed in my first 24 hours and this enjoyment remained for next 5 days.

Alighting from the old Alitalia MD aircraft, Barcelona airport greeted passengers with parallel red and green lines pasted on chipped Italian tiles directing towards luggage collection. But suddenly, both colours went in opposite direction making all foreigners confused. Young girl at the reception couldn’t speak English but she came along the green line to show non Spanish speaking visitors the gate towards luggage collection. That’s where Spain differs from France. Both countries get a lot of foreign visitors but France let you know that you are a foreigner and unwelcome if you don’t know French. In Barcelona, not many know English yet they welcome you with smile and friendly demeanour. No wonder Spain is the most popular tourist destination in the world.

In my 24 hours in Barcelona, I learnt something about this city that is unique in the whole of Western Europe. In the centre of Barcelona, books shops are almost at every block much the same way most other cities would have a pub. How I envied those people who would sit on the benches under the green tress, basking under sun and spending hours reading a book. I also observed that every apartment facing the road have a balcony with grilled iron work and green sun shield that look like operation gown.

What did I like about Barcelona so much …?

Taxi drivers are honest, friendly and courteous. Taxi and Public Bus have a privilege lane that is respected by every car driver. Most of the locales don’t know English but if you ask them anything they try hard to explain. Alas everything is in Spanish and seeing their sincerity, you make them feel that you have understood what they meant.

Every major road has a centre vista - for walking and bicycling flanked by trees – and has wooden benches. Bicycles are available at 1 Euro per week rent .There is no sign of druggist, drunkards or muggers, at least not that I could spot.

Most people are immaculately dressed, are in great shape and lover of food and drinks. But scenario on beaches is different, here they are scantily or sometimes with no attire and have passion for water sports and sun soaking in abundance.

Most buildings have similar height with ground floor dedicated to cafes and banks. The city is built with square building blocks with one corner of square chipped in to house a coffee shop with adjacent kiosk that sells newspapers and magazines.

And the list could have gone up had I got a chance to visit Gothic quarters and Art galleries.

This visit made me know two great names that of Joan Miro – a painter and Antonio Gaudi – an architect that I was ignorant of. I also learnt the fun of drinking beer from half yard glass with wood rack that looked straight from chemistry laboratory along with the danger of spilling it on one's shirt when it comes to gulping bottoms up.

Walking along the Diagonal and Platza Catalonia – major roads that houses banks, branded shops - was a pleasure and I almost did it everyday. On weekend, as evening was setting in, noise of bursting crackers transformed the city like a Deepavali. That day was San Juan feast – celebration of the longest day in the summer. 5 kms walk from convention centre along the beach overseeing on our left side beautiful scantily clad figures was interesting and entertaining. The reward at the end of this long walk was Spanish cuisine - sea food paella consisting of red prawns from Palamos. Seeing Indian and Pakistani teenage waiters in the restaurant made me admire their possible courage in reaching the European shores.

Eating at Italian, Mexican restaurants around convention centre and Diagonal Mall was fun and so was the view from the open sided balcony of AC Barcelona hotel of both the mountain and Mediterranean Sea on either side. Barcelona is similar to Beirut in that respect. Most memorable visit was to Cathedral Family Sagrada – an architectural wonder piece – that started work in 1886 and it still not finished. But this monument is so special that it needs a separate mention on my blog.

Every day, my taxi passed by Torre Agbar – water department building that looked more like erect missile jutted out from nowhere. I must say it looked ugly during the day but with colourful lights, classy in the night hours. Visit to Bodega – Spanish winery was an amazing experience. My respect for wine makers went up after seeing their efforts in preserving the wine over so many years in most complicated manner. I was elated when I got a chance to carry three wine bottles – one mine and other two gifted by my Saudi colleagues. But my joy was trampled to dust bin by immigration customs officer at Barcelona airport, who didn’t allow carrying any liquids in hand luggage.



Anonymous chavi said...

just went through your blog and barcelona seems like a place one must see ..incidentally my sis had been there two months back for quite some time and though the pictures she took were beatiful she never described the place as you have so i am mailing your blog to her.

Your photographs are beautiful , exquisite.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous page eaton said...

your comments on barcelona are as eloquent and glowing as all i've heard. the agents and clients who have visited there all agree ~ spain is the most welcoming of countries in europe, and barcelona is a joy. i look forward to reading about more of your journeys.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Judith Epam said...

"I'm so glad cause you enjoy my city. I was telling you that it is a peculiar and especial place to visit and enjoy. I like so much your blog and I see you take a little esence of the city. Hope next time

11:44 AM  

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