Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Barcelona Day 2: Museu Picasso and Santa Maria del Mar

La vida es buena! (Life is good!).
But just as we were starting to enjoy our's, it was the end of someone else's...

On our second day in Spain, we were jolted by the news of Whitney Houston's passing.  I was sad but not surprised as I've read about her downward spiral all these years.  Surreal really:  the passing of a diva a day before the big night of music: Grammy Awards.  Dah tertulis...

It was rather quiet around our place that day.  Not because people were mourning Whitney, but because it was Sunday :).  We were told by our friend that many shops and establishments would be closed on Sunday. Therefore, we decided to spend our day visiting a museum in the morning and then dropping by the friend's house for lunch (restoren pun tutup kan?? :)).

There were many museums in Barcelona, but the one which my daughter and I deemed as 'wajib pergi' was Museu Picasso.  Dah sampai Spain tak pegi muzium Picasso, memang rugi!  I was even more delighted to discover that the museum's entrance fee was wavered that particular Sunday to commemorate Saint Eulalia :D

After breakfast, we boarded the Metro from Tarragona to Arc de Triomf station.  As the name indicated, it was near one of Barcelona's landmark: Arc de Triomf.  The archway structure was the works of Catalan architect, Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas.  It was built in Neo-Mudejar Style (a revival of  Moorish-influenced architecture).  Ada nampak sikit2 unsur senibina Islam (Moor) walaupun telah diberi nafas baru (neo).  Chewah... bunyi macam arkitek lah pulak!! Kikiki!

Baju pun sama colour dengan
Arc de Triomf :P

We walked along the avenue until we reached the Entrance of Parc de la Ciutadella.  As much as we had wanted to explore the park, we had to forgo it as we had a tight schedule :(.

Rius i Taulet Monument in front of
Parc de Ciutadella Entrance

Museu Picasso was nestled among the narrow and cobbled street of  La Ribera.  When we reached there, we joined the already long queue at the entrance.  Entry was free for the day, but the audioguide was not.The museum showcased Picasso's works at different stages of his life.  It was an eye-opener because apart from Cubism,  I didn't know that Picasso also delved in other styles.  Luckily the daughter learnt about this in  art class, so she was my audioguide :).  Unfortunately, no photos to be shared here as taking photos was prohibited in the museum :(.

Around La Ribera

Opposite Museu Picasso was Museu Barbier-Mueller d'Art Precolombi which has a collection of "pre-Colombian cultures of the Americas".  However, we decided to skip this place and instead venture a bit into this "old city" quarters to visit the ancient Basilica Santa Maria del Mar.  The church, like the Magical Fountain, was also under restoration but was opened for the public to visit.

The west end of Santa Maria del Mar

Built in the 14th century, the church was a fine example of Catalan gothic architecture...

Ogival arches

Rib vault

The stain glasses were a sight to behold...

As we headed back to the metro station to catch a train to our friend's house in Cerdanyola, we managed to catch a glimpse of the El Born Market which was also undergoing restoration works.  Berapa banyak renovation daa...

Mercat del Born

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hola Barcelona!

Writing this entry on a cold bleak morning in Bristol made me wish that I'm still in sunny Barcelona!  Yeah, my family and I went to Barcelona during the recent school break, and thoroughly enjoyed our vacation.  It was a last minute thing, but we managed to buy plane tickets and book a well-rated apartment for a good price, online.  For the designated dates, the cheapest fare to Barcelona El Prat was via Ryanair (London Stansted), while the cheapest fare from Barcelona to London (Gatwick) was via Easyjet;  hence, the decision not to buy return tickets from either airlines... hehehe!  Our friends were amused, but to me, it gives me a good opportunity to gauge the services of both low-fare airlines.

So what's my verdict, you ask?  Well, after our terrible experience at the check-in counter at Stansted, I don't think I'll fly Ryanair ever again!  Poor counter management, I would say.  As Non EU citizens, we need to get our online boarding passes stamped, yet there was no designated counter.  So we just queued up with the rest of the passengers.  When it was finally our turn, we were asked to go to another counter as the clerk did not have the stamp!  Back to square one.  While standing in queue, some Ryanair personnel decided THAT particular counter would be used to facilitate the checking-in of another flight.  We were flatly directed to another queue.  Memang panas betul hati! Even at the boarding gate, there was only one counter/personnel who attended to 'fast boarders' and normal passengers.  These may be isolated cases but they left a lasting impression on me!  On the other hand, my experience with Easyjet was more pleasant.  I like it that there's no weight restriction on the hand carry (unlike Ryanair) and frontliners at the counter were most efficient.

It took about 1 hour 45 mins to reach Barcelona.  Near landing, my ears hurt BIG TIME (I thought my eardrums were going to burst ... seriously!).  My advice:  don't fly when you have FLU.   I was practically deaf for the whole day afterwards...

From El Prat Terminal 2, we walked to the RENFE station which was a distance away.  We boughts T10 (Zona 1) tickets which enabled us to make 10 trips around Barcelona Zone 1 (city centre) using Metro and RENFE trains, FGC and TMB buses, and tram.  It cost 9.25 Euros and can be used by more than one person (multipersona).  We boarded the train (RENFE) to Barcelona Sant (station) and then took the Metro (Line 3) to Taragona.

Our apartment, Entenca 98, in Eixample, Barcelona, was just 2 blocks away from the metro station.  The contemporary-designed apartment has 2 bedrooms, a living/dining area, a kitchen, and 2 toilets. What I liked about the apartment:  the bedrooms and living area open-up to balconies and the toilet was equip with a bidet!  Senang untuk bersuci selepas... :P.   We were pleased with the apartment because it's clean, comfortable, well-equiped and near amenities.

Upon our arrival, we checked the neighborhood.  The wide streets and charming facade reminds me of  Putrajaya.

We also did some grocery shopping as we we told by a friend to stock-up as most shops close on Sunday.  Food, especially seafood, was relatively cheap here compared to Bristol.  So we bought loads and stuffed ourselves sick! Hehehe...

After dinner, we went sightseeing around Placa d'Espanya, which was within walking distance from the apartment.  Parc de Joan Miro, Arenas De Barcelona, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) and the Magic Fountain of Montjuic were situated within the square.

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
The museum was situated on high grounds.  Luckily there were escalators to reach the place.  From up here, one can enjoy the night view of the square down below.  From October to April, on Fridays and Saturdays, between 7.00 pm to 8.30 pm, there were supposed to be light and music performances at the Magic Fountain.  However during our visit, the fountain was undergoing restoration works.  Therefore, no show :(.

February is a good time to visit Barcelona because their winter sale starts in the second week of January and lasts till the end of February :).  We stopped by Arenas de Barcelona, the bull-ring-turned shopping complex to check out the Winter Sale.  Hard to resist bargains, but no budget for shopping pulak ... :(

Arenas de Barcelona ... Moorish architecture...
similar to Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad in KL
to be continued... :)