Please add following these tips for growing a garden in the basement to the list of things I desperately want to do, but probably never will. Actually, that’s a clumsy sentence. Following the tips isn’t what I want added to the list, growing a garden in the basement is. I might however, find space to put up a grow light so we can have fresh herbs year round. We’ll see.
Michael Pollan says we all need to be green even if our peers aren’t. These gardeners in LA do it guerrilla style, showing you how to do it in an urban environment. And my buddy Matt writes in the LA Weekly why cities, LA specifically, need more parks.
Thanks for clicking on the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. There are 10 chapters total, listed at the end of this post. Check out the introduction for more information.
Our last day. A couple days earlier, we had started feeling tired of being on vacation. I know, I know, that problem tops everyone’s list of “Nice Problems to Have”, but still. We had saved MontjuÃ¯c for today because it was a Sunday and we didn’t think they’d close an entire mountain. It was sunny and hot, the African Heat J had read about earlier in the week had come. It was about 127 degrees (check my Celsius math) and sunny. Montjuic sits on the water looking over the city and giving the opposite view as Parc Guell and Tibidabo (presumably, we never went).
There’s a fort on the top of the mountain, which has been used several times throughout history to shell the city. Also, the Olympic stadium is up there, which must have made for a nice opening ceremony. There’s a bus that will take you from the bottom of Montjuic to the fort at the top. If you want to avoid a sunburn, please, dear reader, take the bus. I’m speaking from experience here, but, you know, do what you want. Also at the bottom is a fountain that if you go when it’s not a drought (which it was) and at night (which it wasn’t), you’ll see a fantastic light/fountain show. Anyway, we walked up and wished we hadn’t.
After taking some pictures at the Olympic stadium, we walked over to the botanical gardens to consider the high entry cost. It looked very nice and all, but we decided against it to continue our march to the top in the scorching heat (seriously, take the bus).
Castell de MontjuÃ¯c is a fairly standard 17th/18th Century Store fort, but what makes it so cool is the crazy port right below it. We thoroughly enjoyed the view, had a lunch of Cornettos, and decided to head down. I’ll take this opportunity to interrupt the travelogue and mention the sun and heat. Again.
As it was the end of the trip, we were trying to manage our Euros in such a way that we got on the plane heading to Boston with exactly no cash left. This had us in a bind when we wanted to take the cable car from the castle to the bottom of Montjuic and the only way to buy tickets was a machine that wasn’t accepting our credit or debit cards. The main problem with 17th/18th century castles, as we saw it, is the lack of ATMs. With only enough cash for one ticket and about 7 useless pieces of plastic between us, we continued marching down in the unrelenting “African Heat”. The reality of our foolishness was beginning to illustrate itself in the form of mild sunburns and I must beseech you, if you visit Montjuic, take the bus up and down.
We took a breather in The Jacint Verdaguer Gardens or “bulbous” gardens, which were not a replacement for the Botanical Gardens so much as lovely park to collapse in the shade and marshal energy for our continued march. A respite from the unrelenting assault of the sun. The park was dried by the drought, but had plenty of children playing and families picnicking.
Just below the bulbous garden was a street with a restaurant, metro buses, and information booths. We knew a funicular was supposed to be somewhere on this hill and thought the information booth would be able to tell us how far. Unfortunately… well, not to mince words, but the girl in the information booth didn’t know anything about the funicular and didn’t know where it was when we showed her the map. The funicular was literally 35 yards across the street. Finally the funicular came and took us off this Godforsaken hill. May we only return under somewhat cloudier conditions. Try not to miss the FundaciÃ³ Joan MirÃ³, I think we would have loved it if we had planned this morning better.
After alighting from the funicular, we decided to make one more wide loop of this eminently walkable city, hitting the Born and Barri Gotic again for memory, and for the first time exploring the Port area. The Port includes an extension of La Rambla called La Rambla del Mar, which is essentially a funky drawbridge. The drawbridge is a walking path separating the marina and a crazy futuristic mall. They let the boats out of the marina at regular intervals and try not to be stuck on one side or the other. It turns into bedlam as people keep moving towards their destination in that human trait that has them moving forward even as there is nowhere further to go. The mall is out on a mini-island and likely caters to cruise ships, but we were too tired to explore fully. If we had known about it earlier, we might have come here to do any shopping we had intended to do. As it was, we completely struck out on the Barcelona shopping experience. On our way home, we stopped ever so briefly at a Spanish flea market and confirmed that junk is junk no matter what language.
We heroically made it back to the hotel and rested up for dinner while reflecting on our trip. Just kidding. We were so devastated by the heat that I don’t even remember this couple of hours. Wanting to make one last trip to our favorite part of the city, La Placa de Maria del Mar, we decided to try dinner at Taller de Tapas
We got to Taller de Tapas around 9 and illustrated the point beautifully that the reason we hadn’t had waits at restaurants all week was because we were getting there before the late night dinner rush. We waited about 35 minutes, a wait that would have been much more pleasant if we hadn’t decided to wear our cranky pants. I liked this place… We got a pot roasty thing that was awesome, pan y tomate, patatas bravas, green beans that were delicious and then, since it was our last night and we hadn’t yet, gambas al ajillo. These weren’t very good, but overall, Taller de Tapas is a win. Try to sit across from the restaurant in the courtyard so you can be serenaded by the duo of singer and guitar player playing along to a boombox.
After dinner, we did one more spin around the Placa, getting gellato from the good gellato place (the smaller of the two) and happening upon a tiny shop with a TV just as Spain won a Eurocup match against Italy advancing to the quarter finals. All the way back to our hotel, there were shouts of joy, sky rockets and roman candles, and cars honking. It was a cinematic ending to the perfect vacation, just as this would be a cliched ending to the perfect Free Barcelona Travel Guide. If only we hadn’t had to fly home.
Waking up early the next day, we walked to the train station and got to the Barcelona airport a couple hours ahead of our flight. Spain’s amazing propensity for travel lines (as evidenced by customs on our first day) was again displayed in the check-in line I waited in without moving for an hour and fifteen minutes. There was some excitement when luggage was left unattended and someone told a guard. The missing person had been using their luggage to save a place in line. Tsk tsk tsk. We made it through in the nick of time only to land in Madrid and have our Madrid to Boston delayed SIX HOURS! I prefer to think of the above paragraph as the end of our trip and this travel day as the re-entry into the real world. Hope you enjoyed this guide and that you have fun in Barcelona!
There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: PlaÃ§a de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa MilÃ
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada FamÃlia
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, TapaÃ§ 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic
Map of where we went or wished we had.