Archive for April 5th, 2010

A Day in Barcelona (11 miles in 2 hours)

The bus finally pulled in at the bus station in Barcelona at just before 8 a.m., which means I survived the first 16 hour-straight bus trip of my life. (Although, now that I think about it, we might have done that when my 8th grade class went to Washington D.C.)  I dozed a good portion of the time, and every time we drove through a town or bus station, I pulled out my iPhone to see if I could get any kind of open internet connection. It was slim pickings and I never got one for long enough to actually do anything like look up hostel listings in Barcelona.  At about 3 a.m., the bus stopped at the Valencia bus station, and conceivably, I could have gotten off there, but a quick calculation in my head told me that if I stayed on the bus until Barcelona, I wouldn’t have to look for a place to stay for the remainder of the night, and I could spend the morning exploring the town before finding and checking in to a hostel.

After getting my bicycle all repacked with my gear, I headed towards the shore.  The city was almost completely dead, despite it being 8:30 a.m. on a Monday morning (following Easter). I was completely surprised that there was almost no car or pedestrian traffic all the way to the beach, although there were plenty of people biking and jogging along the boardwalks.  I got to see the huge Olympic torch art installation, and then further down, admired the Barcelona World Trade Center’s architecture, which reminded me of some of the photos I’ve seen of buildings in Dubai, with a sail-shape for the main portion of the building.

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona has nice dedicated bicycle lanes on most of the big roads, and the other thing that I liked was seeing huge numbers of folding bicycles on the streets.  My Bike Friday was right at home amongst its cousins. They also have a cool program that allows you to rent a bicycle in one area of the city and then return it at any of the other stations, which are conveniently spaced all around. The rental bikes even have headlights and taillights that turn on when you ride them.

After taking in the sights of the beach, I biked back North into town to see the famous Segrada Familia, all the while keeping an eye open for a store where I could buy a new GSM chip for my cell phone and FINALLY get some internet access.  There were almost no stores open, even after 9 a.m., although I did find a bakery to purchase a chocolate-covered donut for breakfast, a croissant for lunch, and two dinner rolls for supper that I could combine with the two types of cheese I already had.

The Segrada Familia was beautiful up close when I could see all of the little details, although I have to admit that I think it looks a little ugly from afar. I’m amazed that it has been in construction for so long.  It will look so much more picturesque when there aren’t fourteen cranes in the photos.  By the time I showed up, there was finally starting to be some activity on the streets, with tour-busses pulling in and tourists getting out, mouths agape, pointing video cameras to take vacation videos that will probably never be seen again.

The same photo every Barcelona tourist takes, complete with ugly cranes.
The same photo every Barcelona tourist takes, complete with ugly cranes.

I rode around the city for the next three hours, looking for an open cell phone store, but apparently Vodafone just doesn’t want to take my money. At noon, I showed up at the doorstep of the helloBCN hostel, which is a pretty cool place, with cool watch RFID cards that also work to open up a rather large locker in your room.  Check-in wasn’t until 1pm, but I was able to sit in the lobby and access their wifi and actually get some internet things done for the first time in four days.  I finally started to feel better once I was able to start looking for solutions to my recent problems (Garmin GPS power/battery issue, lost hi-vis vest, etc.) but then before I was actually able to track down addresses of stores where I might be able to pick some of these items up, their wifi router DIED!  What did I do to deserve this luck!  And so I found myself paying 20 euros for a night without internet access.  I had plenty of time during the day to make it 60 miles up the coast to a campsite that would cost half that and also probably not have internet access!  The curse of Spain continues…