This is our third Christmas on the road. It's another low-key event for us, but that's all about to change. After three restful weeks in Calella, we're packing up the bikes again! But this time we've got company!
Tajana and Iva have joined us on our trip!
Neda's high school friends have driven all the way from Croatia and they are spending a couple of weeks of their vacation with us. The reason we took an extended break in Calella was to prepare for the arrival of The Pula Girls. I remember how we used to travel when we were on vacation - wanting to see and do everything in what limited span of time we had. So I convinced Neda to take some time off beforehand in preparation for a whirlwind tour with her friends.
The girls descended onto our apartment bearing Christmas gifts - namely lots of food! All the Croatian favourites that put a smile on Neda's face and made me have to loosen the belt on my riding pants. They were very excited about traveling with us and were very curious to discover how we travel: how we packed all our belongings on the bikes everyday, what our pace felt like, how we lived on the road.
Looking down onto our Barcelona neighbourhood
Barcelona is only half an hour away from Calella, so the next day, we gathered all the belongings that we had strewn all over in our settled-in apartment and got ready to leave. The Pula Girls got the answer as to how we pack our bikes: Very slowly. I anticipated this and Neda and I started an hour earlier to stuff all our belongings into various dry bags, liners and jacket pockets. Everything had a place and it was rare to leave something behind because of the Tetris-like hole it would leave in our crammed luggage.
All the girls did was throw a suitcase into the trunk of their car. And despite the hour head-start we had on them, they were still waiting for us.
More free parking in downtown Barcelona
Through AirBnB, we found a rustic apartment right in the downtown area, which turned out to be not so expensive since we were sharing the costs four ways. Unfortunately for the girls, parking in downton Barcelona is super-expensive. Some places nearby were asking €40 a day! That was more than what their share of the apartment was! They found parking quite a ways away, but it still cost them €24 per day.
In contrast, we rode up onto the sidewalk outside our apartment and left the bikes parked there. Free. The girls may be discovering how we travel, but we are also learning how expensive our trip could be if we were doing it by car. I estimate our costs would have easily doubled in some of the larger cities we were visiting just because of the parking alone!
We are leaving all the planning of the trip to The Pula Girls. This is their vacation so we are merely tagging along and following them to all the places they want to visit in Spain. It feels good not to have to plan at all.
One of the places we visited was La Boqueria, one of the largest markets in Barcelona where you can pick up all sorts of fresh vegetables, meats, pastries, sweets, etc. I loosened the belt on my pants a little bit more in anticipation...
The minute I saw this octopus on the counter, I knew it was not going to last very long
As predicted,The Pula Girls all ordered octopus salad
Iva is toasting to the start of a great Spanish vacation
Barcelona is cold this time of year. Iva moves faster than we do, even off the bike...
We got a good idea as to how our trip was going to go. Iva and Tajana spent every waking minute exploring Barcelona. Neda joined them for most of it, opting out of the night-time events since she falls sleep early. And I let all the girls hang out by themselves while I relaxed in the apartment, venturing out for sporadic walks and meal-times. When they would come back, they'd regale me with all the things they saw and did in the city.
I felt tired just listening to them! There's no way I could travel like that! Not full-time, at least.
My favourite part of churches are the votive candles
One of the most distinctive features of Barcelona is the architecture of one of its residents, Antoni Gaudi. His modernist buildings are found all over the city. The Casa Batlló above is made to look like it was constructed out of skulls and bones - the skulls are the balconies and the bones are the pillars of the building. Gaudi decorated the exterior as if it was coral, you can see the marine relief and colours in the higher floors.
Barcelona's longest pedestrian street, La Rambla, all decked out for the holidays
Like the rest of Spain, Barcelona comes alive at night. This was one of the busiest cities I've been to. It ranks right up there with New York City and Rome, and I can imagine it's what Tokyo also feels like. Although only having a population of 1.6 million, most of the people that we were swimming with and against on the crowded streets are definitely tourists. The cold night air was thick with the din of many different languages.
"Who knows where the road may lead us, only a fool would say"
Is it embarrassing that for the longest time, I thought La Sagrada Familia (The Sacred Family) was just the title of a cool song? It was only very recently that I found out the song (by Alan Parsons Project) is about a church designed by Gaudi and is one of the most famous buildings in the entire world because of its unique interpretation of gothic architecture.
I think it looks amazing, but like most of his buildings, it resembles something out of a twisted dream. Construction started in 1882, and it is still unfinished today. There is transparent protective wrapping around the bottom of the church that from afar looks like a spider web, lending to its nightmarish quality. The cranes towering above the church are a constant fixture and they say it will finally be complete in 2026, 100 years after the death of it's architect.
When construction is finished, it will be the tallest church in the world.
Gaudi himself is buried in a crypt at the basement of La Sagrada Familia. He died after being hit by a streetcar less than a mile away from the church he was building.
"First we'll have some of these, then we'll have a bit of those, then..."
*sigh* While the girls stock up on supplies, I go shopping, looking for a bigger pair of pants...
The bone-building, Casa Batlló, during the day
Close-up of the top of the building
I'm not lion when I tell you I'm having a great time!
Watching the boats come in for the start of the Barcelona World Race
In a few days time, a fleet of two-man yachts will leave from here and race around the globe to arrive back in Barcelona in three months time. The ships are only 18m long and they will have to survive three oceans, 12 climate zones and 23,000 nautical miles. Very extreme!
It's a bit funny contrasting those race statistics to our own trip. Based on how slow we go, we're never going to be able to boast: "xx kms! xx countries! in less than xx days!!!"
A bit of modern architecture amongst the old
Some girl-stuff happening in our apartment. I walked in, took a picture and left.
Neda is having such a great time hanging out with her old friends! Iva and Tajana are the first friends that have visited us while on this trip! We have been traveling with only ourselves for so long and although we are good company together, Neda does miss being all girly and doing girly-things.
The dynamics are working out very well, because the girls' pace allows Neda to do all the things she wants to do without feeling like she has to drag me out when I'm feeling lazy (which is most of the time). For me, I've never lived with a bunch of women before and it was eye-opening how much talking, giggling, talking, finger-nail painting and talking goes on...