23 – 24 June 2010
In total is was about a ten hour coach trip from Beaujolais to Barcelona. To date I have coped fine on these coach trips, in fact I quite enjoy them because it is downtime where I get a chance to read/type or sleep or simply sit and watch the world flow by. We broke up the trip to Barcelona with three service stops which range from half an hour to an hour. Our most interesting was a stop at the Pont du Gard, a two thousand year old aqueduct built by the Romans.
Pont du Gard
23 June 2010
23 June 2010
I was quite emotional about our arrival into Spain, in a bloody big smile kind of way; it’s somewhere I’ve never been before. Here I am in Spain, how f**king cool is that!
Official Contiki Itinerary
Day 6: Beaujolais Wine Region to Barcelona
Head through the majestic Pyrénées Mountains to
Barcelona. Hostel (B,D)
• Check out the Roman Aqueduct at Pont du Gard
Day 7: Barcelona
See why this sexy city sizzles on a sightseeing tour. Tonight,
feel the passion at an optional Flamenco show! Hostel (B)
• See Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia & the 1992 Olympic Games
• Walk the Gothic Quarter & La Rambla district
Official Contiki Day Sheet
Dia de Sant Joan
23 June 2010
Barcelona has two festivals which are noted in my Lonely Planet guide. One is Festes de la Merce which is apparently four days of partying and the other involves bonfires and fireworks that go off the night before the public holiday of ‘Dia de Sant Joan’ which just so happened to be on 24 June 2010!
Our first night in Barcelona was a free night, but our tour manager Ray had never seen the party that occurs the night before Dia de Sant Joan so we all followed him into town on the public transport system to check it out. Ray had told us the festival involves fireworks, but also bonfires where Catalans are known to burn old furniture and jump over the bonfires to symbolise cleansing of old sins (or simply old stuff so they can buy new stuff).
Wow! What an experience going into Barcelona was that night, people in the streets everywhere, fireworks going off everywhere; the loud ones not necessarily the pretty ones. It was fantastic; we soon picked up some cans of beer for a Euro from (unlicensed?) sellers walking around the street and just wondered along the beach taking in the atmosphere.
24 June 2010
We were taken by coach to a view point and then on to La Sagrada Famila, construction on this famous building was started in 1882 and obsessively overseen by Gaudi. It is still under construction with an estimated completion date of 2020; it comprises of 18 impressive towers standing for the 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Mary, mother of God and the tallest representing Jesus Christ. An interesting fact Ray told us was that Gaudi came to his death one day after leaving La Sagrada Familia and walking in front of a tram. He was so obsessed with the detailed construction of his building that he was dirty and un-kept and no one recognised him for the famous Gaudi, father of Barcelona. Essentially he was considered a common bum so medical treatment was slow in coming and he ended up dying. After this accident the trams were removed from Barcelona and sworn never to reinstated, drastic?
At our drop off point in town Ray took us on a short street tour around the Gothic district (Barri Gotic) of Barcelona, pointing out buildings of interest and providing a little background history. We were shown a church square used by dictator General Francisco Franco (Reign 1939 – 1975) to execute those who didn’t agree with his regime. This is recent history, still very much in the memories of many Spaniards, especially Catalans who Ray said Franco particularly hated. Accordingly this square was a very solemn place, it isn’t known how many lost their lives where we were standing as no records were kept but it is considered to be in the thousands! Ray said that it was not unusual to see crying relatives in that square even today, just showing how recent the fascist regime was in power in Spain. Many people wanted the square to be destroyed (some made attempts) but in the end the government decided to take steps to cleanse its painful history through initiatives such as putting a kindergarten in the area to try fill the square with the laughter of children and they constructed a new fountain to symbolise life and motion.
That evening we went to a live Flamenco show which was entertaining but not spectacular like the Cabaret show in Paris.