Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Paris and Northern Spain: Day 11

by Kathy 17. November 2010 10:26

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Bicycling Through Barcelona

All Starbuck’s are not alike. The one on La Rambla, across from our hotel/apartment, provided lattes so weak that we wondered, “Is there even coffee in here?”

¡No problema! A quick trip to the supermarket a few doors down, and we had ground coffee, filters, and cream with which to make hearty cups of brew in our own kitchen.

Today we would be exploring Barcelona by bicycle. We had originally planned to take the hop on / hop off tourist bus to see various parts of the city. However, after our fun experience bicycling through Paris last week, we thought that a bike tour would be a much more fun introduction to Barcelona.

At a nearby tourist information booth, we learned that bike tours left every day at 11:00 a.m. from Sant Jaume Square in the Gothic Quarter.

We walked a few blocks through narrow streets to reach the square. Here are Genevieve, Sebastian and Ben, making their way:

Once we reached the square, we were supposed to look for some bicycles and tour leaders wearing red shirts and holding a big sign. We rounded the corner and found them . . . already swarmed by about 30 people. A short distance away, however, were two people wearing bright green shirts, standing next to bicycles that advertised another bike tour. No one was swarming them.  After a moment’s hesitation, we made a beeline for the green shirts.

The “green shirt” company was Barcelona Biking, owned by Barcelonans who promised a fun tour covering the highlights of the city. Our riding group would be smaller than the “red shirt” company, which we thought was a big plus. Smaller groups work better for safety reasons when we are riding with the kids, especially in cities with busy streets.

We walked a couple of blocks to get our bicycles and helmets.

Genevieve (who is almost 5 feet tall now!) was matched to an adult-sized bike, and she took a moment to get used to the brakes and size.

Sebastian was on a kid-sized bike:

Our tour started in Sant Jaume Square, with our guide Lena (in the green shirt and scarf):

We learned that the square was the administrative hub of modern Barcelona, with two important government buildings.

Here is the Palau de la Generalitat, which is the Capitol building for Catalunya:

Directly across from the Capitol was the city hall for Barcelona:

We then rode a short distance to the medieval square called Plaza del Rei, which contained the Royal Palace where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella purportedly welcomed Columbus after his voyage to the Americas:

It was on these steps that Columbus supposedly asked for more money for future voyages and presented the royal couple with potatoes, tomatoes, and four Native Americans:

Next was the impressive Cathedral of Barcelona:

The side building on the Cathedral contained an interesting mix of architectural styles.

The Cathedral holds the tomb of Saint Eulàlia, the first patron saint of Barcelona. She was only 13 years old when she was tortured and then killed by the Romans for refusing to renounce her Christianity. An internal courtyard holds 13 white geese in her honor:

(One must have been hiding today because Genevieve and Sebastian counted, and then recounted, but could only find twelve geese.)

Sebastian was more interested in climbing poles than viewing the interior of the church:

Continuing through the Gothic Quarter, we stopped in a “secret” square, Sant Felip Neri, which is named after a church here.

The church still has holes on the exterior from a bomb that was dropped during the Spanish Civil War.

Other photos of the square:

Moving onward, we stopped briefly in the Plaza Reial, with its ring of arches and outdoor cafes.

The unusual lampposts in the Plaza were designed by the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi:

We continued our ride down to the harbor area, stopping in front of the Port of Authority building:

Across the street was the Christopher Columbus monument that we had seen on our walk yesterday:

Lena explained that the column had been built for the 1888 Universal Exposition in Barcelona.

Along the water’s edge was a wide paved esplanade:

About a mile later, we stopped at the Barceloneta, which is the most popular beach in the city. The lounge chairs were mostly empty today, however, and the cloudy skies began sprinkling rain as soon as we arrived.

We kept dry and warm in a nearby Sea Point Hostel café, with a light snack of hot chocolate and bread.


The rain didn’t last long.

Here is Sebastian, along the Mediterranean Sea:

A fishing boat:

We were soon back on the bikes, pedaling about another mile east to the Vila Olímpica (Olympic Village), which was built for the 1992 Summer Olympics.

The twin towers consist of a luxury hotel on the left (Hotel Arts), and an office building on the right (Torre Mapfre). Lena told us that the hotel framework was made from recycled cars.

To the left of the towers was a giant sculpture called Peix d'Or (Golden Fish), which had held the Olympic torch during the summer games:

The sculpture was desgined by architect Frank Gehry, who had also created the Guggenheim Museum that we had enjoyed so much last week in Bilbao.

To the left of the Golden Fish stretched the Barceloneta beach.

Lena explained that before the Olympics, there was only ¼ mile of beach along the Barcelona waterfront, which had been primarily an industrial area. The construction for the Olympics brough drastic changes by creating over 3 miles of beach. The artificial beaches erode during the winter, however, and have to be rebuilt each year before the summer crowds arrive.

As we were looking at the beach, two joggers glided by with unusual shoes:

To the right of the towers were 4000 apartments that once housed the Olympic athletes.

Leaving the Olympic Village, we rode down a long straight avenue, with wide bike lanes in the middle:

We stopped in front of Gaudi’s world-famous church: La Sagrada Familia.

Construction of the church started in 1882 and it is still an ongoing project.  Gaudi worked on the church until 1926, when he was struck and killed by a tram. Since then other artists and craftsmen have had a hand at creating various elements of the church. Funding for the continued construction comes from public donations, especially entrance ticket sales. The church is expected to be completed within another 20 years.

The front of the church is known as the “Nativity” façade and includes hundreds of plants, animals and other organic elements designed by Gaudi.

In between the front spires was a tree with birds:

The structure on the side had clusters of fruit or grain at the top of each roof peak:

Lena then led us around to view the back of the church, which is known as the “Passion” façade because it depicts the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

This portion of the church was created by the Catalan sculptor Josep Subirachs, from 1978 to 2002. The sharp angular shapes on this side are very different from Gaudi’s fluid organic elements on the front, and many people have voiced their criticism over the drastic contrast.

The back portico had six columns that tilted inward:

Details from the Passion Façade:

With lingering glances, we tore ourselves away from the mesmerizing La Sagrada Familia. We would be returning here in a few days to view the interior and climb into the towers.

Onward ho!

Our next stop was the “Arc de Triomf”, located at the entrance to a large park called Parc de la Ciutadella.

Like the Christopher Columbus column, the Arc de Triomf was built for the 1888 Universal Exposition. The light horizontal band along the top is a frieze entitled “Barcelona welcomes the nations.”


Beyond the Arc was the wide pedestrian street, called Passeig de Lluís Companys, leading into the park.

The Parc de la Ciutadella was established on the site of a large fort that had been demolished in 1869. It contains a zoo, a lake, two museums, many gardens, and the lavishly ornate “Cascada” Fountain:

The fountain was also created for the 1888 Exposition.  It was designed by architect Josep Fontsère, with the assistance of a young Gaudi, whose handiwork can be seen in the winged dragons.

Yes, we were there!

Genevieve and Sebastian couldn’t resist dipping their hands and playing in the cool water:

A large stone mammoth was tucked away among the trees, and Genevieve and Sebastian took turns (along with other children) climbing on the trunk.



The final stop on our tour was the Santa Maria del Mar church, which is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors:

Lena said that this is the most beloved church for Barcelonans, who have nicknamed it “the people’s church.” Supposedly, there is a 2-year waiting list for couples who want to get married here.

The church was located in a very small plaza. Right across from the front of the church was a huge advertisement with scantily clad figures.

Some of us felt it was a bit strange (dare I say “inappropriate”) for such a large and suggestive ad to be prominently displayed right outside the front door of a Catholic church. Lena laughed at that sentiment, however, saying that Spanish people just view the ad as something “natural” that shows ordinary people, so nobody cares about its close proximity to the church.

We pedaled back to the bicycle shop with our minds and bodies energized from the tour. It had been superb!

Around the corner, we joined a large group of Ben’s family for a late lunch; most had arrived from California yesterday and were still recovering from jet lag. Here are Sebastian and Genevieve with two of their cousins, Marshall and Kirtee.

Returning to the hotel, we received our daily dose of entertainment from the street performers who line La Rambla. We were particularly impressed by one man who was able to flip a soccer ball around and do amazing tricks with ease and grace.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the hotel, with the kids playing with their cousins. (I also did a few loads of wash in the hotel’s laundry room).

From our hotel windows, we could see the scaffold-covered spires of the Cathedral of Barcelona rising above the Gothic Quarter, with the twin towers in the Olympic Villiage peeking up on the left:

Looking down on La Rambla:

Above the treetops:

Sebastian with his cousin Marshall:

Tonight there was a delicious dinner out with family—and, of course, more taste-testing in our quest to find the best ice-cream in Barcelona!

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin