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Day 2, Barcelona - The carnival that is Las Ramblas

The previous evening Herve had informed me that breakfast time would be signalled by playing music.

travel Updated: Aug 22, 2012 17:34 IST

The previous evening Herve had informed me that breakfast time would be signalled by playing music.

"Don't need to rush out if you are in the shower, come after you are finished."

I guess that instruction must have been added after a few instances of dripping guests in their towels at the breakfast table!

At breakfast I meet Nikita. What? Two Gujju girls in one B&B in Barcelona at the same time? What are the chances? Fat chance! Nikita was a guy from Ukraine, in Barcelona, to soak in the art scene. Over a breakfast of yummy freshly-baked organic bread, Nikita and I discussed our plans for the day. He was off to Figueras, a town just outside Barcelona known for its Dali museum, I was taking on Montjuic and Las Ramblas.

Park Montjuic is a hilltop on one end of Barcelona. The bus dropped me off at the point from where one can either make their way to the top by foot or take the cable car. Unless you are looking to burn up some serious breakfast calories, I suggest the cable car. As the cable car started its ascent, the spectacular panorama of city below slowly unfolded before me. The summit is crowned with a fort that has played an important role in most of the wars and uprisings in the region. Today, it rests peaceful, the cold cannons pointing towards the sea in salute. I make my way down by the winding path through the botanical gardens.

Next destination - Las Ramblas, the most popular street in Spain. Spanish poet, Federico Lorca, described it as "the only street in the world I wish would never end." Most would concur. Las Ramblas is a pedestrian street that stretches across the centre of the city. As it is probably the most popular tourist destination in Barcelona, the numerous souvenir shops selling 'I Love Barcelona' mingle-mangle is expected. There are portrait artists with their easels set up amidst the milling crowds, flower shops, candy shops, artisans selling handicrafts, cafes and tapas bars advertising the dish of the day, ice-cream stands, street performers. A street? More like a carnival!

One of the most interesting attractions just off Las Ramblas is the Mercat de la Boqueria. A farmer's market, it is a maze to 500 stalls including a few tapas bars. Each stall sells dozens of varieties of one products. So, there is the olive stall with olives of various sizes and colours, stuffed, pitted, pickled, tapenaded...the nuts stalls with piles of nuts, roasted, salted, sugared, honeyed, and whatnot...home-produced chocolate stalls, bread stalls, meat and fish stalls. The mix of sights and smells is a desirable assault on the senses.

At the end of Las Ramblas, I turned back and looked down the street I had spent the last few hours walking up. If only someone would find a way to bottle some of the Ramblas, essence...now that would be a stall that would do a lot of business.

Several lanes lead off from Las Ramblas into Ciutat Vella or Old Town. The best way to explore this section of the city is to let yourself get lost in the alleys and then find yourself in front of an old building or church or in one of the several wide plazas. Museum rats will find the Picasso Museum and the City Museum an interesting visit. It is also a great spot for shoppers as many of the old buildings house local and international designer stores. Barcelona's Old Town is abuzz with energy and all the action seems to gravitate here. Every alleyway I turned into threw up something interesting be it a shop called 'PIMP - secondhand and underground wear' or a street performer in Michael Jackson's avataar!

Ended the day with a coffee in a street-side cafe watching Barcelona go by.


Trivia I learned at breakfast:
'Bombay Mix' in Barcelona is a snack of different kinds of spicy fried chips. In Ukraine however, 'Bombay Mix' is a marijuana-like drug cocktail!