Today, we strolled down Las Ramblas, the tourist promenade of Barcelona. But have no fear, there was much to be learned apart from the touristy grandeur. To begin, we visited Placa de Catalunya, Barcelona’s center. This plaza separates the old (south) side of town from the new (north) side of town. Catalans gather here to celebrate their culture, watch soccer on the big screen, or organize demonstrations. We, on the other hand, stand around like the tourists we are and read aloud Rick Steves’ narrative (today’s title is in fact Steves’, thus the copyright). The inverted staircase monument was erected in honor of former President Llussa, who declared independence for this region.
Las Ramblas was the former perimeter waterway of Barcelona when it existed as a walled city. The Catalans have gone to a great extent to preserve the corridor and its historic significance. You can still see remnants of the perimeter wall and the sidewalk is paved in wave-like tiles. Our second stop was the Fountain of Canaletes. Legend has it that anyone who drinks from the fountain is guaranteed a return trip to Barcelona. We all took a drink since we want to come back to see the Sagrada Familia when it is completed in 2026.
Further down the Ramblas, we took a side trip to see some uncovered ruins. These were a reflection of the time when Augustus was conquering portions of Spain a couple thousand years back. Typically, the roads leading to the city were lined with tombs. I’m not sure was kind of message these gateways were sending, but urban development was still in its infancy, and the Romans were probably not too concerned with what their visitors thought of them. Elizabeth thinks the terra cotta graves are not originals, but it’s a good story nonetheless.
At the south end of the Ramblas is the Port of Barcelona. There is a 200-foot statue honoring Christopher Columbus. The base of the statue depicts scenes leading up to the discovery of the new world and new trade routes. Unfortunately, the new world discovery and the Atlantic trade that resulted didn’t help the economy of Barcelona which was focused on the Mediterranean region.
After a couple of miles of walking, the ladies took a break on the pier to enjoy the sun and rest. Since Brody was more interested in pestering them, I took him for a stroll through the port area which was refurbished for the 1992 Olympics. There was plenty of sights to see, a mall, cruise ships, and sailboats.
After the rest period, we visited the Maritime Museum. This was advertised as the best preserved medieval shipyard in the Mediterranean. As has been our experience, some of the museum was closed off as they prepared for a new exhibit (on Vikings – too bad). The main room had exhibits explaining the research being conducted near Antarctica. But most impressively, it had this Galley.
This replica is the type of ship built in these very dockyards in 1568, was sailed (for speed) into battle, and was powered through 59 oarsmen (prisoners) for maneuverability. It’s very impressive and was the flagship of the Holy League in the clash between the Christian allied forces and the Ottomans. There were other exhibits on navigation, communication, transition from sail to power, lifeboats, signal flares, mapping, and reels of films like Jaws and Titanic.
During the trip back to the flat, Elizabeth and I discovered that the children had dropped out of formation. Turning around, we found them ogling into the window of a local bakery. They have developed a nose for sniffing out bargains and found deals that featured 5 fartos for 1 euro and 3 canas for 1.5 euros – both good deals and well-named pastries. We’ve found that walking down the street eating baked goods is commonplace over here and that’s just what we did. Elizabeth baked a chicken for dinner which was delicious in spite of the fact that the chicken had feathers on it when the cooking started.