Sunday, 30 March 2008

gaudi oh gaudi

When friends heard that I was heading for Barcelona, just about everyone had nice things to say about BCN. The food is great. The ladies are beautiful. The architecture is fabulous. I have been here for two nights, and just about everything I heard is true but ... not all food are equal (naturally) and as for the ladies ... hmm ... not enought data to compute, yet.

(note : this may be a long and winded post ... 'cos its 7.22 am and I have one hour to killed before breakfast ... oh, the croissant yesterday morning was incredible, so I had two with butter ... the cold weather is making feel hungry all the time).

The journey in from KL was eventful itself. I sat for more than 12 hours next to a drunk, who was very polite except that he kept bugging people to play with him. "Is this my blanket?" and he'll start pulling the one wrapped around you ... so you have to wake up. And then he will go "oops, mine's right here, on the chair behind me". Said that he's a Swede. Pony tail, in bermuda shorts and colourful t-shirt; has a 12-year daughter. The stewards had their hands full 'cos he was disturbing every one around him. A tall caucasian lady and a male friend even came over and told the drunk to shut-up and go to sleep. The drunk said he made the mistake of drinking coffee as well as the beer and red and white wine. When I got of the plane at Amsterdam, a big caucasian guy came up to me to offer his sympathies and congratulating me for keeping cool. Yah, I said I just ignored him and let him play by himself. Even though the stewardesses and stewards were very cool in handling the drunk, I pointed out that the signs were there - the guy asked for a beer even before take-off. And he asked for the wine to be filled to top of the cup ... and he had red and white at the same time. Apparently he was already drinking on the flight from Sibu. Luckily for me, he was a gentle drunk.

Schilpol Airport felt really cosy, full of people travelling. I liked the layout. Not to grandiose and full of places for people to just sit around. If you are carrying a Malaysia passport, the immigration guys will scrutinise it very closely, even squeezing the embedded smart card ... looking for signs of forgery.

Coming in the BCN on KLM flight, it was all present. Even the sandwiches were really incredibly good - cold sandwiches tastes good too and I am not kidding. Then I browsed through their inflight magazine and was really please that the have a policy for going CO2-neutral. The airline is supporting green projects. And then I took a closer look at the coffee cup which has a paper wrapping proclaiming "green" coffee. Hey, wait a minute, the cup looks familiar. Damn, its a polystyrene cup! What the h@*l? Maybe I should write to the airline. And of course, there is huge amount of rubbish generate by the disposal packaging for the sandwiches.

Arriving at BCN was another surprise. Hey, they don't even bother to look at your passport (did I miss something?). You get your bag from the carousel and walk right through the green lane and out into Barcelona. If this is not tourist-friendly, what is? Then I tried to figure out how to get to the hotel by bus but after looking at the complex map, I just gave up and took the cab, which wasn't too expensive given that the airport is only like 20 km from the city and there was no traffic jam. And the taxi driver thanked me for getting into his cab.

First impression of BCN? It's a very people-friendly city. Extensive network of pedestrianised roads and even free bicyles (but you need to get a special card). The medieval lanes are just lovely - narrow, winding, shaded by the buildings, full of shops and eateries - and filled to the brim with people (thousands and thousands of tourists).

The famous La Rambla in the early morning before the huge crowd arrives.
You can find sidewalk cafes and restaurants, musicians, mimes, florist, even buy a fighting cock or rabbits that look a little like kittens.
Everyone is just walking along, soaking in the atmosphere.

Another view of La Rambla with the tall maple trees (I think) lining the centre lane which is very wide and only for pedestrians.
On both sides are very narrow lanes for vehicles. I think these trees might have inspired Gaudi in the design of the Temple of the Holy Family (La Sangrada Familia). BTW, Gaudi was killed by a tram here.

Ah, finally we get to Gaudi. This a mosiac pattern on the ceiling of one of the structures at the Guell Park, designed by Gaudi of course. The Park was commissioned by Guell for the rich but it was a commercial failure so the city government bought it to be developed into a public park. Gaudi is famous as modernist architect who loved to work with models rather than drawings. Many of his creations in BCN are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its amazing how much tourist dollar is being squeeze out of Gaudi. Every other thing is about Gaudi.

This is the bedroom where Gaudi rested at the Guell Park. Very minimalist, do you think?
This was what luxury meant in the early 20th Century.

This is La Boqueria Market at La Rambla. So colourful. Everything you need, you can get here, from early morning until evening
I love the place. Everything looks really fresh. Takes a lot of pride to arrange those fruits.

All kinds of fresh seafood and of course meat and even cooked food at la Boqueria.

See the line of red bicycles? They are provided by the City government for free. There's some card-operated mechanism to unlock the bicycles. On the right of the bicycles are bicycle lanes (two directions) but bike lanes don't go everywhere in the city.

The National Art Musuem - this was worth the 6.80 Euro (after 20% discount).
Very nice collection of paintings. Including Picaso - did you know he a local boy?
All those people are sitting on the steps looking down at a panaromic view of BCN ... and of course watching the guy singing on the steps below.


abe said...

hai Dr,
looks like u having much fun there. Next time will be my turn! great to hear bout the city there...sounds and looks interesting. Are u kidding me? An airline claiming to go green? jz look at wat they serve food in! so much of green...the only think that is green is their logo colour!

PJ said...

helo uncle LM!
Barcelona is amazing eh..
even thought i was there 4 years ago. i still remember being blown away by Gaudi, that man is a genius.
i was just telling KJ i am thinking of going back there to see the progress of the Sagrada Familia.
hope you enjoy armsterdam too!