Friday, July 27, 2012

Wrapping Up Barcelona: A Little of Everything

Light show at the Magic Fountain.

  It's the last day of vacation; what do you do?

  Do you get one last day of rest and relaxation? Or one more day out and about seeing the sights? It was our last day in Barcelona, so we planned a little of both.

  Anyone who has been out pounding the pavement, knows how tired your feet, back, and legs can get after just a few days of sightseeing. Who knew being a tourist is almost as tough on your body as playing professional basketball can be?

  So our plan for the last day in Barcelona was to relax, have an easy morning, and then get our final afternoon of sight seeing in on the hillside that overlooks the city, Montjuïc .

Linda and I in the Olympic Stadium!
  Linda and I had found a plaza in the El Born neighborhood the previous nights, that we thought had a fun atmosphere, and still was a little off the beaten path. We wanted to have lunch in this plaza.

  One of the things I try to avoid while traveling are tourist traps. I don't like visiting the TGI Fridays of the world, or settling for 'cardboard box meals' (you know, the meals that look like they could have come out of a box, or heated up in the microwave), or the like.

  Places like TGI Fridays, or the Hard Rock Cafe, are restaurants I used to crave in my first few years in Europe. I don't necessarily miss 'American' food anymore when I'm abroad. Instead I like finding little local restaurants or cafes, where you're more-likely to find some specialty food from the region.

  We picked out a little cafe that had a wide variety of food, and settled in for lunch outside in the plaza. Towards the end of our lunch, there was a group of neighborhood kids playing stick ball. As we finished lunch, we watched as they played. On one of the plays, there was a foul ball, and the ball popped up behind the kids, and got stuck in the window bars about 9 or 10 feet off the ground!

  It reminded me of the days playing whiffle ball in the front yard with my brother, only to lose the ball in the huge hedge that resembled the Green Monster.

Linda rescuing the ball for the neighborhood kids!
  The kids tried and tried to get the ball, but it was out of their reach! Lucky for them, Linda came to the rescue. She ran over, and helped them get the ball, so their afternoon of playing stick ball could continue!

  After a relaxing morning, and easy-paced lunch in El Born, Linda and I made our way up to Montjuïc .

  The hillside to the northwest of Barcelona was the site of most the 1992 Olympic games.

  The '92 games are the first Olympics that I really remember watching as a kid, so it was pretty special being able to see the grounds. We made our way to the Olympic Stadium, which happened to be prepping for a Bruce Springsteen concert.

  I was very tempted to run down onto the track and run a lap on the track famous by Gail Devers, Carl Lewis, and others. I might have made it around, but am pretty sure someone would have hauled me off before I crossed the finish line.

Montjuïc Castle.
  To my surprise, Montjuïc wasn't very busy. It was a nice change from the packed streets of Barcelona. We had a nice walk through the Olympic grounds, and around the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), taking in the views.

  We took a tram ride further up the mountain to the castle overlooking the Port of Barcelona and the city.

  I had gotten a suggestion to watch the fountain show at Magic Fountain that started once the sun went down. So we had a several hours to kill before the fountain show would begin.

  Here's where the day turned a little bizarre, and definitely memorable. 

Atop Montjuïc Castle.
  There was an arena near MNAC that was shaped like a basketball arena. Naturally, we thought that might have been the arena that the Olympic games were played, and where BCN played hoops. So we wanted to explore. If it was indeed the arena where the Dream Team won the gold medal in 1992, that was something I wanted to see!

  As we approached the arena, it became clear it was not an athletics arena, but a mall!

  On the top of the mall, around the Arena, there were restaurants, and like many of the attractions in Barcelona, areas that provided you with fantastic views of the city. From the top, you could look up towards the MNAC, and see a little different perspective of the city. Not just the view looking down onto the water, like many of the other vistas provided.

  As we looked down, immediately in front of the mall, we noticed a group of guys playing a game on a field below. There was no ball, but it was obvious there was a pattern, and a game was being played. We stood atop the mall, a couple hundred feet above the field and watched. Linda and I tried to figure out the point of the game, but both of us had trouble figuring exactly what was going on.

Snack time!
  So we decided we needed a closer look. We headed down to the field to take a seat on the grass and watch. First, we stopped inside the mall's movie theater and bought some popcorn. We needed something to snack on while we watched!

  There were teams of four or five men. One team would surround an opposing player, and engage him in wrestling-like action. Whether it'd be an attempt to tackle his leg, or just a fake attack. Once a player was engaged in action, the chase was on -- for the attacked player to return to his team's end of the field before being tackled by his opponent.

  The game we were watching had one stud in particular, who was quite the showman too -- he even did a back flip at the end for our benefit. They could see Linda and I watching and marveling at the newly discovered game, so I guess they wanted to make sure we were entertained. Here's a quick video of the action:

  The game is called Kabaddi. Google it. I'm sure there are aspects of the game we misinterpreted. 

Magic Fountain from MNAC.
  Our last dinner in Barcelona was less-than-stellar. We couldn't find anything that looked appealing in the vicinity of Magic Fountain. So we ended up in a hotel sports bar that happened to be showing the EuroLeague Championship (basketball).

  For those of you who don't know, the EuroLeague is considered the second best basketball league in the world (behind the NBA). The Champions League of basketball, if you will.

  While we were eating dinner and watching the game, a group of Americans gathered behind us. They immediately began ragging on the game being shown: insulting the players, the league, and in my opinion, the countries involved. They were very loud and obnoxious about it, and it quickly got on my nerves.

Magic Fountain behind.
  Not only did they have no idea about the particular game being played, or the EuroLeague in general, but they were extremely disrespectful. It's situations like that where I cringe because I know that's how we, as Americans, get our bad reputations abroad.

  I couldn't hold my tongue, and listen to the loud bashing for long. Unfortunately, I don't think my words were really heard, but at least I let my feelings known.

  It was finally dark, so Linda and I made the short walk back across Plaça d'Espanya to Magic Fountain for the light and water show. And what a way to finish our time in Barcelona!!

  The sidewalks and stairways were packed with people, as everyone took in the show. The display reminded me of a Disneyland laser light show combined with a water show in Las Vegas. It was a fun, colorful, unique, and memorable way to spend our last evening in Barcelona!

  Our final day in Barcelona certainly was a little out of the ordinary. If you had told me we would spend a couple hours sitting on the grass, eating popcorn, and watching a game I had never heard of, I would have said you were crazy.

  You can get a little bit of everything in Barcelona, and our last day there proved just that. But it was a memorable one to say the least.

  I enjoyed Barcelona, and all the variety and culture it had to offer. I hope to travel back one day, to further explore the things Linda and I did see, and to visit the places we didn't make it to this time around.

  As always, enjoy more pictures below! If you've been, what are the things you appreciated about Barcelona?


Pretty palm tree!
Looking down from MNAC.
Inside Olympic Stadium. The torch!
Linda's turn!
At the '92 Olympic Site.
Looking into Barcelona, from the tram.
Barcelona from the tram.
Barcelona from the tram.
Port of Barcelona, from Montjuïc Castle.
Linda atop Montjuïc Castle.
Looking onto Barcelona from Montjuïc Castle.
Atop Montjuïc Castle.
The Arena.
MNAC from the top of the Arena.
Watching the Kabaddi game from above.
Kabaddi training.
Magic Fountain.
At Magic Fountain.
Magic Fountain.


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