In Catalan Country

This article is written by Shantanu Ghosh.

I almost did not make it to Barcelona. The Spanish consulate insisted they needed more time to process my visa – something I did not have since I was flying out that weekend to the USA. Just when I had given up, they handed me my passport with the visa – one day before my flight. And what a trip it has been!

I flew into Barcelona on a Lufthansa flight late in the night. By the time I had checked in and taken a shower, it was close to midnight and I was thinking of ordering room service. But then I looked out of the window. Down below I could see cafes open and packed with people. It seemed too good to pass up. During the week I spent here, I would discover several uniquely delightful things about Barcelona, including the fact that dinners begin late and continue well past midnight!

This was my very first trip to Spain and the first discovery I made was Barcelona wasn’t Spanish speaking! The local language, Catalan, is very distinct and shares a few words with French. My limo driver, a young man from Valencia, gave me some quick facts about the city. While the city has a population of about 1.5 million people, the cruise ships bring in almost the same number of tourists every year. As he put it, Barcelona is the Bahamas of Europe.

I took a table outdoors surrounded by tourists and locals who had come out of the nearby shopping mall to grab some dinner. A cool breeze blew from the ocean nearby. I ordered their red house wine, a selection of Iberian ham and a seafood paella.

The Hilton on Diagonal Mar turned out to an excellent choice. While the location is not central, it is right on the oceanside and has easy access to the Metro station. The large shopping mall opposite the hotel also provides several small tapas places for a quick bite. My room was airy and comfortable with panoramic views of the city and the ocean. The lounge on the executive floor is another nice location to work or laze around with the sea-breeze blowing on the open terrace.

I found a good amount of time to do the tourist routine here. While Barcelona has many attractions – history, architecture, food and wine – one needs to be aware of the seamier side of this lovely city. With unemployment rampant, criminal activities are on the rise. Be wary of pickpockets – there are several incidents of mugging and thefts, especially in crowded areas. If you are in the wrong side of La Rambla in the late evenings, you may be accosted by pimps, prostitutes or drug peddlers openly. To be fair, I haven’t heard of violent crime involving tourists.

Shantanu Ghosh

2 Oct 2011

Trip to Barcelona

This article is written by Sathish K, a Software Professional and travel writer, based in Bangalore

Lufthansa provides you of choosing one place to fly when one flies down to Germany from India. I think the same facility is there for other areas though am not sure. But you need to pay for Airport Tax.
So we chose to fly to Barcelona last weekend (29th & 30th October 2005). We took the 10:00hrs flight from Frankfurt to Barcelona. Its close to 2hrs journey. At Barcelona airport there is a huge statue of a bull probably to symbolise their love for the sport, bull fighting.

On the beaches if one is not aware of the culture in the West and know only the Indian sub-continent culture, hes in for a shock. Since this is not my first trip to Europe I was accustomed to these. People in the beach take a swim and change there itself instead of looking for a room. People take oil massage and get into sunbath mode.

After covering all the beaches on the side we went back to the hostel. It was almost dark by the time we came out of the beach. Of course we did not take a dip in the water.
We bought few souveniers as a rememberance and finished our dinner and made some enquiries and again started walking up and down. Life is active only in the night, there are lots of discotheques with no entry fees and being with guys is a problem one cannot go into these. There are some where one can enter after paying about 15Euros. We walked up and down and up and down and by the time we thought of going back it was 4:30 in the morning!!
On sunday we took our bags after breakfast and took the metro to look at the Olympic stadium and water fountain which we missed the earlier night. The Olympic Stadium is something I liked the most. I know I cannot be there as a participant in any event so I took the photos in all different possible angles!!

The Olympic Stadium, Barcelona

From here we thought of going to Sagrada Familia (there is a castle like structure) and took a bus. We had to change the bus at one particular point Francis Macia. We of course dont know the place. Travelling in the bus we got the feeling that bus was going too far and we might have missed the stop. We asked one elderly couple and the old man was jumping up and down that we have missed the stop long back. Of course he did not know English neither did we know his language, but we understood then he made sure we got down at one stop from where it was closer to take the Metro. We then asked another guy luckily he spoke English and that place was called Vellcara!! He guided us to the Metro station. Manging to reach Sagrada Familia we did not go in since it would take us close to 20:00hrs to come out. Took few snaps from outside and then went again to the Metro station to reach airport since our flight was at 19:00hrs. And back to Mannheim where am staying from Frankfurt, the time was close to 0:00hrs.

La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece

In the two days we noticed quite strange things, like a man digging in the beach looked more like a guy digging his own grave!!

There was protest march in the street and at the tail there was a van with music playing on accompanying the marchers!!!

We were damn tired at the end of it since we had spent most of the time walking here and there, up and down…

Sathish K

4 Nov 2005

Trip to Barcelona

World’s top 25 travel destinations

This article is written by Shifra Menezes , a student and a travel writer based in Mumbai

Here’s a look at the top 25 destinations around the world that includes cultural capitals, architectural havens, beach paradises and some unconventional picks as well.

1. Cape Town, South Africa

The mere mention of most destinations in Africa immediately conjures up images of lion safaris and yellow wilderness as far as the eye can see. While these are enough to keep the intrepid traveller quite happy and offer the experience of a lifetime, there is more to Africa than just that and Cape Town is where it’s all at.

From cultural and historical attractions to wildlife and adventure sports, Cape Town has something for everyone.

A handful of the popular tourist attractions in Cape Town:

  • The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront a popular haunt for dining and shopping, offering up a wide variety of cuisine and wares.
  • The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden with its tranquil surrounds and exotic plants, is the ideal picnic spot for nature-lovers and trekkers alike.
  • The beaches in and around Cape Town are famous for their soft white sand and crystal-clear waters. Some of the popular ones are Blouberg, Dolphin Beach and Boulder.
  • If you’re an animal lover with a penchant for big cats, drop in at the Drakenstein Lion Park, dedicated to rehabilitating the beautiful animals in their natural surrounds.
  • For history buffs, a boat ride to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, is a must-visit.

2. Sydney, Australia

Often mistaken as the capital city, Sydney is the country’s largest city and arguably its cultural capital.

The unmistakable waterfront of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge is just one of the many tourist attractions in the city.

Your visit to the harbour city should include:

  • Bondi Beach, one of the most famous in the world for its massive swells (for the surfers out there), is a great place to start. If you’re looking for a lazy day at the beach however, there are plenty to choose from such as Coogee, Manly and Balmoral among many, many others.
  • Nature enthusiasts won’t be disappointed with a visit to Taronga Zoo, Oceanworld and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
  • For those more culturally inclined, there’s the Sydney Festival (free indoor and outdoor performances), the Big Day Out (a travelling rock festival) and a number of film festivals.
  • Check out breathtaking views from the AMP Tower observatory, the highest structure in Sydney, and the Powerhouse Museum of science, technology and design.

3. Machu Picchu, Peru

Tucked away in the Amazon forests, perched atop an Andean plateau, this ancient city is an architectural marvel. Often referred to as the ‘Lost city of the Incas’, it has been recognised as a World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

Built around 1450, at the height of the Inca empire, the entire city has been constructed using polished dry stone and has survived the centuries remarkably well.

One of the three primary constructions within the city is the Intihuatana, a pillar built using stones that point to the sun. At noon on March 21 and September 21, the sun is almost directly above the pillar, and casts no shadow. It is believed that the Incas used this as a clock or calendar based on the sun’s path.

So for the traveller who enjoys a little history lesson along the way, Machu Picchu does just that.

4. Paris, France

Nothing says romance quite like Paris. But there is a lot more to this beautiful city than just the Eiffel Tower and romantic walks along the Siene.

The French capital offers a host of attractions including The Louvre, which is home to some of the world’s most valuable paintings and sculptures.

Food lovers can relish the French cuisine in the many bistros and cafes that dot the streets and culture vultures can take in the rich history and architecture on offer.

Some popular tourist spots include:

  • The Notre Dame cathedral, the Napoleonic Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees and the Pantheon church (the final resting place of Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie) are some of the most recognised landmarks, as is the Eiffel Tower.
  • The Montmartre and Montparnasse areas, known for their artistic history is worth a visit for music halls and cafes.
  • Known as the world’s fashion capital, drop in at the Avenue Montaigne and Faubourg Saint-Honore for a peek of the highest of high fashion. And if splashing out on designer labels isn’t your thing, don’t fret. Paris has a lot more shopping than just designer labels. Les Halles and the Champs Elysees have plenty to choose from.
  • The picturesque Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens are lovely for a stroll of picnic. A great way to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.

5. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Movies and music have had a long-standing love affair with this beautiful city, and deservedly so. The spirit of Rio makes it a must-visit.

Another draw is the fact that the resort city will play host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup final and the 2016 Olympic Games and you can bet it’ll be an explosion of colour and dance two elements that simply capture what the city is all about.

So when you fly down, make sure your travel itinerary includes:

  • The Copacabana and Ipanema beaches have been immortalised in song and well deserve a drop-by thanks to their many dining spots, pubs and discos.
  • The Corcovado mountains with the statue of Christ the Redeemer are a major tourist draw being one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, and atop the peak, offer breath-taking views of the Brazilian landscape.
  • The annual Carnival (during February and March) is an experience like no other. Massive parades along the streets with opulent floats and tens of thousands of revellers simply have to be seen to be believed.

6. New York City, USA

The city has been written about and sung about, movies have been shot around its iconic landmarks and its unmistakable skyline and yet it loses nothing in terms of sheer fascination for the millions of visitors and tourists who throng its streets every year.

So if you too plan to drop by the Big Apple, make sure to visit:

  • Manhattan for its fantastic skyline and a glimpse of the Empire State Building, Rockerfeller Centre and Times Square.
  • Ellis Island for the Statue of Liberty, and while you’re at it the Staten Island Ferry.
  • Madison and Fifth avenue for the shopping.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Broadway for some cultural stimulation