Barcelona – Day 1

Late last week I learned I’d be going to Barcelona for a meeting on Monday afternoon.  Short notice, yes, but Barcelona in July sounds like my idea of a good time, and to be honest I seldom have much going on anyhow.  After a tiny bit of convincing I followed my co-workers advice to head down one day early.  Total personal cost: one night’s hotel stay, which was EUR120.

I flew out of LHR at 9am, and landed at BCN two hours later.  After landing at BCN airport (which was nice and new, with clear signage) I was ferried into town by a taxi driver/Jose Calderon superfan.

After ditching my stuff at the hotel, I took to the street.  I had read that restaurants that have English are the least authentic, so I went off the beaten path and got the below for EUR3 including a drink (C$4).  It was something like a pizza on a baguette, with spicy chorizo, chick peas, pepperoni, tomato, and cheese.

I took to the hills, climbing northwards out of the city centre towards the mountain.  The grade starts out shallow, then grows steeper.  As you climb the sidewalk changes from flat, to mildly textured, to heavily textured so as to help your grip.  After about an hour’s trek I made it to this:

…an outdoor escalator.  Is this a good idea?  Does it work in the rain?  I don’t know.  The escalator is free to ride and continues 6-8 stories upwards, to here:

…where you still have to keep walking, up into a large park – Parc Guell.  After more walking climbing I was treated to this view:

Note the almost-Gherkin on the left, and the Sagrada Famailia on the right.  See the construction cranes?  It was started in the 1880s, and is expected to be complete by 2030.  Seriously, I am not making this up.

Above is a picture of la Rambla, and “main street” of Barcelona.  My hotel was about 500 meters from the sea.

Essentially Parc Guell is Pan’s Labrynth in park form.  It’s incredible to behold and about as ordinary as a building that takes 150 years to complete.  May I suggest the wikipedia article?

Walking back through the city you get streetscapes like this.

Oddly, while some streets can be wide, the traffic moves slowly and it remains pedestrian friendly.  New York sized avenues at a more leisurely pace.

Above, a quiet portion of la Rambla.  Note the tapas bars on the right; this strip is laden with bar after bar.  You can see that the street is wide, with the middle 4-5 lanes holding space for pedestrians, cycle lanes, and bars.  There are only 2 lanes of traffic (one each way).  It’s the best sidewalk in the world.

Best feature of the hotel?  The rooftop pool, of course!  Check out the view!  Both times I used it, I had the place to myself.

Not a bad way to wind down the evening.  Note it is just getting dark; the photo was taken at about 10pm.

Doing my part for the G20

I took some expert advice and watched Wall Street last night (the original with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen).  I remember watching it in high school as part of a law class, we had to write some sort of ethics analysis afterwards.  In retrospect my teacher at the time was pretty cool.

The movie itself if well done and well acted, as true-to-life as a movie of this kind could be, and it generally does a good job of explaining, in both plain english and investorese, what is going on.  I don’t have high hopes for Wall Street 2 but the original is worth a watch, even if you’re an anarchist.

Stuff That’s Way Cheaper in the UK

Hunter Boots. GBP60 here (C$90).

Birkenstocks are GBP30 (C$50), and easy to find.  Of course no one in London would be so unstylish as to wear them but they’re OK pretty much anywhere else on the planet.

Men’s suits are worn in London, a lot.  A lot of professions still require suits to be worn on a daily basis, so there is a large need for suits that are presentable but not expensive.  More demand equals more supply.  You can get a good slim, modern, half canvassed suit for GBP200-300 (C$300-450) that would cost double or more in Toronto at Harry Rosen et al.  Shirts and ties are cheaper (GBP30 for a really nice shirt, GBP20 or less for a tie) and, quite frankly, a lot classier.

Pints. This has already been well documented.