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Spain & Portugal - Day 2

After a good night's sleep, we were fresh again and ready to explore the city of Barcelona.

Despite it being close to winter with temperature hovering between 11 to 16 degree Celsius, the sun is strong and even putting on a light jacket seems too much at times. We have never imagined ourselves sweating in late autumn / early winter! As night falls, the slightly chilly temperature is great for strolling and alfresco dining.

We started our journey from the Arc de Triomf. It is a quiet little garden surrounded by busy roads.


At the other end of this garden, a multi-faceted sculpture awaits....


Crossing the Arc de Triomf leads us into the old city of Barcelona.

Street of the old city of Barcelona

The wide arrays of shops lining the narrow streets did catch our attention, but it is the closeness of the buildings that really fascinates us.

Residential cum shops block in old city of Barcelona

Coming from a small island country, we were amazed at the tightness and closeness most of the buildings are built to each other given that Spain is a large country with abundance of land unlike Singapore where land is scarce. The distance between the two buildings are unbelievably close that we think they can even share food without having to visit each other physically.

The other iconic building here is the Barcelona Cathedral. Having read so much about its beauty, we couldn't wait to visit it. To our disappointment, it was under restoration work, and thus its beauty is somewhat marred.

But all is not lost. Welcoming us at the entrance to the cathedral is the Master of the House.

Stepping inside, we were immediately wow by the grandiose of the cathedral. Its serenity and spirituality instantly brought us back to our senses from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside.

Main altar

This Gothic church was built in the 14th and 15th centuries

One of the highlights inside the cathedral is the magnificent choir stalls.

The other highlight is the Sanctissimum Sacramentium. Here in this chapel, an aura of sacredness prevails.

At the front of the cathedral (near to the main altar) lies the third highlight of the cathedral, the Crypt of Santa Eulalia, one of the patron saints. 

Even the walls of the cathedral are an eye-catcher with their intricate carvings dedicated to the different saints. The gorgeous works are breathtaking. Of the many, these are the three that we especially liked.

Dedicated to Saint Marcos

Altarpiece of the Fundation of the Mercedarian Order

Image of the Holy Mother of Happiness

So much so of solemnity, time to head to the courtyard to enjoy the lighter side of things.

These geese are friendly and attention seeking too!

Having stayed in dimmed light for quite a while, the bright outdoor and its relaxed atmosphere is especially welcoming. Guess that's why most visitors (like us) find these geese very entertaining (well, not sure which way though....human entertaining the geese or the other way round!).

Here in the courtyard, carvings of saints that adorned the main hall continued, but with an airier feel. Simple yet elegant without losing any details. Maybe because we were in an outdoor area, the carvings seems to feel very "real".

We were discussing on grabbing a drink when a water fountain located at a corner of the courtyard caught our attention. is spouting blessed drinking water!! Religion aside, the cooling water immediately refreshes us and best of all, it is saving tips!

Spiritually rested and thirst quenched, it was time to join the world outside again. At the square in front of cathedral was a flea market....what a surprise! The flea market was suppose to be held from Friday to Sunday, on every 1st and 3rd week of the month. We timed ourselves to be in Barcelona on the 1st week of the month but it was only this flea market came as a pleasant surprise....a bonus!

They offer wide variety of products, mostly religious though

The range of products offered at the flea market was pretty good but nothing really caught our interest.

We were given lots of useful brochures, maps and itinerary from the Spanish embassy back home. So, naturally we thought that it would be easy for us to obtain such information here, thus we did not bring any of the brochures with us. That became our biggest mistake!! Not only was the tourist information counter hard to come by, they seriously lack useful tourist-friendly brochures and maps.

Besides the basic tourist map, all other brochure is free meals. Even then, these brochures lack the details and information compared to the ones that we obtained from the embassy. With no useful brochures and itinerary, we were thrown off-track and was momentarily lost for a while. Nope, we can't let this hiccup spoil our holiday. It was a long-planned holiday after all! Relying on our memory and shifting our mood to "take-it-easy-and-relax" gear, we continued to explore the old city of Barcelona.

As we roamed around, we came to the true heart of the city, the Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter. The Gothic Quarter has been and continues to be the supreme historic, religious and political center of the city.

It is so medieval, isn't it?

Strolling through these historic streets, coming face to face with history seems to transport us back to the ancient days where life is life and not one 'controlled' by machines. So surreal, so romantic.

From here, we took a train to Montjuic Park, one of the must visit to Barcelona. We had planned to visit this park the following day, a Friday to catch the spectacular water performance of the Magic Fountain. However, the fountain has been closed for 6 months for a major refurbishment and was expected to be ready only in December 2010 or early 2011. Having heard so much praises for it, I'm sure you can guess how disappointed we were.

Still, we made our way there to admire the beauty of Montjuic Park. The first site that caught our eyes when we came out from the train station was this sculpture....not sure if it has any significance, just find it beautiful.

Directly opposite this sculpture is a pair of Venetian towers, the starting point of a long easy walk to the park.

The majestic building on top of the park is the Palau Nacional which houses the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Isn't it magnificent?

This dome was built in 1929 and remodeled shortly before the Olympics

Side view of Palau Nacional at dusk

Further to the side of the Palau Nacional is a small park where Spain's hosting of the 1992 Summer Olympic Game was evidenced.

Cross this small, quiet park brought us to the Anillo Olimpico, the epicenter of the 1992 Summer Olympic Game.

Olympic Stadium that stage the opening and closing ceremonies; and the track & field event during the Olympic.

Chancing upon the epicenter of the Summer Olympic Game was interesting but the most rewarding of today's exploration was the mesmerizing sunset that greeted us.

With sunset, it also means it is time for dinner (though the Spanish works on a different timeline!). For us, when in Spain, do as the Spanish does. We decided to go in search of an interesting building that stands out among the skyline of Barcelona and has been appearing in Barcelona's postcards.

Not sure what's the name of this commercial building but the different lighting that illuminates the building every night is indeed fascinating.

This search also brought us to a huge shopping mall where we could do our next best for great deals and hunting for food.

We did some shopping but there is one place that is a MUST for us whenever we travel on our own. That's the local supermarket! It is the most interesting place where we can experience the lifestyle and food of the locals. Best of all, it is the most economical place for free & easy travellers be it food, drinks, snacks and even gifts for family and friends back home.

Oohhh.....what's that pungent smell???

Jamon Iberico

Our first impression was "WOW" for the grand display and "errrrrr" for the smell. Besides paella, guess Spanish ham is the next national dish of Spain. This kind of sight is visible in almost all big supermarkets. For Spanish ham lovers, the air is filled with mouth-watering aroma. For non-lovers like us, unfortunately the smell makes lingering around this section challenging and unbearable. Better move to our favourite section....the fruits area.

Spain is a country blessed with great weather and soil condition to be able to produce not only a wide variety of fruits and vegetables but also large, juicy ones.

Not good enough to wow you? look further..... 

What a Giant green chili!!!
This is definitely the largest red capiscum and green chili that we've seen. Of course, besides these 2 types of vegetables, there are many other variety of fruits and vegetables that were not simply large but hugemongous.

It is extremely juicy and sweet. We're hooked on it.

There are 2 types. We had this species throughout our trip except in Madrid where they only offer the softer type....a totally different texture one but just as nice.

We were lucky to have golden peach and persimmons in season when we were there. We are fruit lovers but peach and persimmons were 2 of our most favourite fruits especially when they are expensive and hard to come by in Singapore. So, we took full advantage of our blessings and each had a peach and a persimmon everyday (who cares about having an apple a day!).

Ok, we've made was 9pm now and we hadn't gotten our dinner. Since we were dead tired by now, we bought some food and made our long way back to our hotel to enjoy some peaceful and quiet dinner time.

This post first appeared on Carefree And Off-the-beaten Tracks Travels Around The World, please read the originial post: here

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Spain & Portugal - Day 2


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