Trails and trials of the writer who walks
Today I set out to visit the Sagrada Familia, but of course began by getting completely lost and going the wrong way, which is more or less my sight-seeing style. While wandering around lost, I stumbled upon the rarest building: La Pedrera (which is actually not far from the hostel so I must have done a circle). The balcony railings (hardly the right word) seem to represent twisted thickets of black briar. Sleeping Beauty inside? I later thought that Gaudi’s house in Guell park was somewhat Disney-esque, and could understand how this style might have been considered ‘gaudy’ by the English society of the day. The walls and balconies of La Pedrera followed sensuous curves with whipped cream and icing decorations at the top. Outside the building, a video screen showed some of the stunning décor and style to be found inside. That was really useful as it saved me having to pay an entrance fee. This building would have been on my must-see list if I’d bothered to compile one.
The cathedral, La Sagrada Familia (sacred family), is another Gaudi design and has been under construction since 1882, but I don’t think Gaudi is overseeing the job personally at the moment. Despite the back-drop of safety netting and a huge crane, I managed to feel quite overcome by its beauty, actually moved to tears. I don’t recall ever before feeling like that about a building.
Not far away, a park called Parc de la Ciutadella had me choked up all over again with its beauty, but perhaps my sensibilities were by now softened up.
There’s fierce competition for customers at the restaurants in the famous Las Ramblas district but that doesn’t guarantee you a good meal. Here I had my most expensive (and worst) ‘menu del dia’. The hummous starter, served with cold pitta bread, had more in common with Polyfilla than chickpeas. And It was downhill after that. I had two more ‘menu del dia’ during my stay, and the cheapest one, which included 500ml of very acceptable wine, was the best.
I’ve found food and drink to be inexpensive, considering this is a big city. A small coffee (‘cortado’) is often only one euro, small beer less than two. Just to prove me wrong, the last wine of the day cost a whopping 4.20 (okay, there were olives). You’d think a bar with a name like ‘Mut’ would be cheap and cheerful.
My obsession with prices is because ‘m trying to keep to a spending budget of 30 euros per day as I like to finance my trips out of my modest pension rather than dip into savings.
I had been considerably warned about pickpockets before this trip but it was so cold, my money belt was under two layers of clothing. I only spotted one potential pickpocket, at Placa Catalunya where the big banks and hotels are: man on his own, dodgy clothes, map in hand pretending to be tourist. I couldn’t persuade him to have a fumble for my money. Possibly petty theft is rife, the McDonalds restaurant had a security man at the door. Dammit, I was going to use the loo without buying anything. What can you steal from a McDonalds? Napkins? Trays? I loitered in the doorway and guiltily stole a bit of wi-fi.