Its Thursday afternoon and I'm sitting in my hotel in Madrid. I just finished my business meeting and am getting some work done before I check out and head to Paris.
Spain has been a whirlwind 3 days! Sonya and I arrived in Barcelona very early on Tuesday morning. As we flew into Barcelona, I could see the Olympic Torch that was lit by the archer in the '92 Olympics...remember that? We didn't have any meetings scheduled so after checking in, we headed to the downtown area. On the way to the city, we passed by a hillside that was the cemetery. It was so interesting - the crypts were all above ground and some went into the side of the mountain. It dated back many centuries.
Barcelona is a set on the north east coast of Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea. Its very warm and humid. Neither one of us had ever been to Spain, nor had we done any research so we told the cab driver to take us to the shopping area. He took us to a street called La Rambla. It is a busy tourist street with shops, restaurants and street vendors. As we walked down the street, we heard many languages. Spain is a popular vacation spot for Europeans. This was my first non-English speaking stop; its very different to be in a country where English is not a primary language!
At the end of La Rambla is the Barcelona harbor and a statue of Christopher Columbus. If you recall, Columbus was Italian, but no one believed his theory that the world was round. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were the only ones who agreed to fund his expedition to prove his theory which is why there is a monument to him in Spain. He's at the top of the column, pointing to the New World. Beneath him are figures of the King and Queen, as well as other ornate figures.
The harbor is full of sailboats and yachts. Its a popular strolling, rollerblading, "milling-about" area. Being that the open-air bus tour in London is wonderful, we thought that we'd take the same type of tour for Barcelona. So we paid our 20 Euros (which is like $26 on a good day) and boarded the bus. There was not a live tour guide; instead, they gave us earphones to listen to an audio guide. We were given a map where there were about 20 stops that appeared to travel in a circle around the city. Throughout the tour the guide spoke of the artist, "Gaudi." He designed many buildings in Barcelona. His buildings were quite unique and I don't think you can really find anything similar to it anywhere else in the world. Sonya figured out that it was also the origin of the word "gawdy" because anyone who tried to copy him would produce something "gawdy." I also think it has something to do with being "over the top."
The tour overall was the worst experience ever. The audio quality was bad; I couldn't understand what was being said! The bus would stop for prolonged periods of time with no explanation. We'd have to sit in the roasting sun, the humid air and the pollution from the cars driving by. We tried to enjoy it; we really did. But after 2 hours, we weren't even half way done so we got off and went back to our hotel.
That night we had a business dinner with our local colleague. We ate at a restaurant that overlooked the harbor. Being a coastal city, the seafood was absolutely amazing. I had a white fish called "hake" - like cake, but hake that was very flavorful. I also tried this dessert that is like creme brulee and Spanish ham. Now, I hate ham but this ham was like prosciutto and melts in your mouth! Why is American ham so gross?!? This kind of ham is so much better! The moon was shining, we could see the lights of the city and the temperature was perfect.
The next morning we had an early breakfast meeting with our local distributor/partner and then toured their facility. After our meeting Sonya and I decided to head back to the downtown area. We went to the gothic quarters which is the oldest part of the city. We visited the Barcelona Catherdal. It was free but as we entered the church, there were beggars outside asking for money. Also, your shoulders had to be covered to enter the church; security guards would not allow women who wore tank tops into the building.
The building was grand and old. It was built in 1298 and is stil under construction. This church and the Sagrada Familia were so "over the top" in their design that they would run out money and have to stop construction. Its been an ongoing project since!
We had lunch in the area and at that point, decided there wasn't much else we wanted to see so we headed back to our hotel, checked out and headed to the airport. Sonya was heading to Amsterdam and I was heading to Madrid. We hoped to get earlier flights but weren't able to so we parked ourselves in the airport and worked for 3 hours. With a lack of decent Wi-Fi, I wasn't able to get much done.
Soon we said goodbye and headed to our flights. I was delayed an hour + and didn't get to Madrid till almost 10 pm. I'm working today and not able to get out to see Madrid so this is it for my Spanish trip.
Its an interesting, beautiful culture, the food is fantastic, the people are friendly, but if you decide to come to Spain (or at least Barcelona), don't plan on more than 2 days - it'll be plenty of time to see everything you need.
Here's the few photos I took: http://picasaweb.google.com/njnakamura/Barcelona