To Barcelona, Part 3

Part 3, continued from part 2

Between that and my cold, I got a very poor night’s rest. After breakfast I went back to sleep until it was time to check out and move on. We reached our destination around 2 pm. Javier met us and let us into the apartment where Enrico will be staying for the month, near his own home in Sant Cugat, a small town within easy commuting distance of Barcelona. Once we’d dumped our stuff, he took us back to his place, where Maria gave us an excellent lunch of lentils with sausage and sliced beef with a garlic-onion sauce (though the meal was great, she apologized for the lack of fresh vegetables – they had just returned themselves from visiting relatives for Easter).

That evening we walked around Sant Cugat and had a meal of tapas and salad at a small bar/restaurant. We deliberately sat in front of the sliding glass door, to get as much fresh air as possible. Spain’s recent anti-smoking law permits smaller establishments to choose whether to allow smoking, while larger ones must create a separate smoking section. Since most restaurants and bars aren’t very big, in practice this means that very little has changed: few have decided to go non-smoking, and the Spanish smoke even more than the Italians used to. So it’s difficult to find a restaurant not full of smoke, and in my lung-congested state this was even less appealing than usual.

The next morning we met Javier at the Sant Cugat station to take the commuter train to Barcelona. We first went to the math department where Enrico will be working and saw him settled into an office etc. Ross and I did a bit of shopping, then bought tickets at Plaça Catalunya for the Bus Turistica.

This costs 22 euros for a two-day pass (they give you a book of discounts to various things, some of them useful). It would probably have been cheaper and more flexible to get a day pass for the subway, but the weather was gorgeous and I was still feeling very tired and coldy, so riding around in the sun on the open upper deck of a bus was very appealing. You can get on and off the bus at any stop, but, to really see everything efficiently, you need to plan the trip better than we did.

Enrico joined us and we set off on the ruta sud (southern route), which actually first went north up the big avenue where the two famous Gaudí houses are located, then around to the west west and down to the waterfront. We stopped at Maremagnum, a shiny new shopping mall, mainly to use the restrooms, then walked up to La Rambla, looking for lunch.

La Rambla was the wrong place. The cafés with sidewalk tables are all horrible tourist traps, and so was the restaurant we eventually chose – they wanted to charge us 45 euros for a mixed plate of tapas for two. We don’t mind paying well for good food, but paying too much for mediocre food is deeply irritating. We selected the cheapest things on the menu. I had fried eggs with french fries and chorizo – the latter being good, I probably had the best meal of the three of us.

Travel Tip: Don’t eat in touristy areas, especially not La Rambla.

continues in part 4

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