Battling through beautiful Barcelona…
Those who managed to catch part one of this holiday might remember that by the time we set off from Andorra I was feeling quite ill with a nasty cough. I was still however very determined to do Barcelona justice and overall we had a great time. We saw the sights, ate a lovely tapas meal, found some Geocaches, had a few transport issues – one of which was resolved by the police, and we also managed to get ourselves lost in a huge cemetery… Read on to find out how we, somewhat successfully, managed to battle our way around the beautiful streets of Barcelona.
On the morning of our departure from Andorra we were packed and ready 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled pick-up time so we waited at the front door of the hotel for the coach that had dropped us off earlier in the week to pick us up again. Time drifted away with no signs of the coach, and after 15 minutes over the agreed pick-up time we started to wonder whether it was coming at all.
With so many other people milling around we hadn’t realised that a man – that we’d been stood opposite for a good 20 minutes or so, leant up against a people carrier reading a paper, was waiting for us! Doh! The penny finally dropped into that very echoey well after I’d given him our names and asked if he was waiting for us to be met with an abrupt “Sí” and raised eyebrows…ooops…we jumped in and were driven in silence down to Andorra La Vella coach station where we were to change to our coach for the rest of the journey.
After a three and a half hour transfer we arrived back at the airport where we caught our final bus of the day to Barcelona’s central square, ‘Plaça de Catalunya‘, and from there it was just a short walk to our hotel ‘Hostal Girona‘.
Keen to drop our bags off we quickly made our way up the building’s grand stairway to the entrance hall of the hotel where we were met by the lovely hotelier who talked us through a few of Barcelona’s touristy parts and after handing our passports over he took us down a very nicely decorated hallway to our room for the next few nights. The room was fairly plain, but clean and spacious, and definitely ample for what we needed.
Thursday evening in Barcelona…
After a quick break we headed off for some nearby Geocaches, our first stop was at EARTHCATEDRAL BARCELONA AGUANAGUANGA 5000 which was a fairly straightforward Earthcache to do with the type of rock that was used to build the cathedral (in this case Montjuïc stone). There was also a nice traditional cache attached to this cathedral called CATEDRAL DE BARCELONA which I added a favourite point to for the location.
Next one on our list was a cache with a lot of favourite points, it was down by the harbour which was a nice walk through some really quirky streets and it was called POSTALES DESDE BARCELONA where we sadly ended up with a DNF (Did not find). The cache was quite obviously missing (and from the cache page had been for quite a while) but people were still logging it as if it was there. In my mind you can’t log a find if you didn’t sign the log book. Ho hum. I guess things are a little different on the continent?! Anyway, this was such a shame for us as we’d read up about this cache and it had suggested leaving a blank postcard addressed to yourself inside the cache so that the next Geocacher could write on it and post it back to you. We thought this was a neat idea so we’d just gone and bought a postcard with stamps to leave in the cache so it was a real shame when we didn’t find it.
After that let down we decided to go and find somewhere to eat but we were side-tracked by an interesting building with security guards outside. Curiosity got the better of us and we headed towards it, not expecting to get in but just to have a peek at what was inside. Surprisingly we were let in, it was called the Mercat del Born and the inside reminded me of Tobacco Dock in London (one of my old work haunts) but with an added twist. The centre of the building was a huge archaeological dig dedicated to the memory of the Catalan city which thrived there before the events of 1714 (the siege of Barcelona). It was a really nice exhibition although I think some of it was closed during the evening and so we missed part of it but what we did see was very interesting and I’d highly recommend popping in if you’re in the area. We’ve still got no idea why there was security outside, probably just to keep the riff raff out I suppose?
Leaving the building we headed up one of the main streets and were greeted by another fantastic building, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, which was packed with stunning gothic style candelabras, stained glass windows and a ceiling that stretched to the sky. Really great for the wow factor, and it’s free to look around…definitely worthy of a donation into one of the boxes if you’re passing through it.
Walking up the street back towards our hotel we found somewhere to eat called Montello. Neither of us wanted anything fancy I had lasagne and MrB went for a pizza. We were there pretty early by Spanish standards and I guess that’s one of the reasons it was practically empty when we arrived, that and it was evidently an Italian restaurant and probably not what the average holiday maker is looking for in Spain!! We also stopped at the café next door on the way back for a cuppa and a chat about our game plan for the next day.
Friday in Barcelona…
We opted to start our day with a walk over to La Sagrada Familia where I quickly realised I’d forgotten to bring my camera. Yes I do have a brain the size of a pea 🙂 We trotted back to the hotel, picked up the camera and changed the plan to ‘let’s pretend that never happened and go to Park Güell first instead’.
I decided to pop over to the front desk and ask the hotelier the best way to the Park as they usually know the cheapest and quickest routes and I didn’t want to waste anymore of our time than I already had that day 😉 He soon pointed us in the direction of the bus service from Plaça de Catalunya, which we knew from our arrival the day before. However, when we got there we couldn’t see the bus number we were looking for, for love or money, and I ended up getting the police involved. Much to the embarrassment of MrB, I think it’s a man thing not to ask directions but I like talking to the police, they are there to provide a service to the public after all 🙂 They pointed us in the right direction, we found the stop, bought our tickets and were soon on the next bus up to Park Güell. Simples.
The Park is perched on the top of Carmel Hill in Barcelona and is a UNESCO world heritage site listed as one of the works of Antoni Gaudi. His work is stamped all over the park but the most spectacular piece, in my opinion is the colonnaded footpath under the roadway viaduct. It’s so clever, and makes you wonder how it all manages to stay up! It’s definitely worthy of the entrance fee of around €7 to have a look around.
Obviously we had a look to see if we could find any caches whilst we were there but we had no luck with our first one Park Güell: Sala Hipóstila and so we mooched on over to our next possibility Gaudi House Museum where the odds were in our favour. In fact on arrival at GZ we bumped into a couple of people around our age looking very suspicious. Of course they were Geocacher’s too and before long between the four of us we managed to find the cache. In fact they were pleased we’d turned up because they hadn’t been able to find it and were just about to give up looking. We had a quick chat about caching and they told us they were from Belgium and we said our farewells, only to bump into them again about twenty minutes later at VIPER! which we couldn’t find without their help so it ended up being Belgium one England one! Always nice to bump into fellow Geocacher’s 🙂
Next up we wanted to return to the scene of our earlier mishap, La Sagrada Familia. We could’ve hopped back on the bus but instead we decided to walk to see a bit more of the character of Barcelona that you wouldn’t get from the bus route. Thankfully it was all downhill from the park and it was easy to spot what we were heading for as you can’t really miss one of the biggest buildings in Barcelona! The queue had also died down a little from the morning so I think our day had actually worked out for the best.
I’m not sure there are quite enough words to describe the awe and majesty of La Sagrada Familia, it’s one of those places you have to go in and explore yourself. In fact beyond that you need to read up a little bit about it too, which you can do inside the building. Looking at the architecture is just one side to this buildings’ awesomeness. The process that has gone into, and is still going into building it is otherworldly. You can get a little taster of the materials used in the build at the Earthcache Gaudí’s Crazy Ideas: Sagrada Familia Columns which was the only cache we found here, although there are a couple more depending on how much you want to spend. We decided to only pay to go inside the building not up the stairs which cost extra but would’ve meant we could’ve grabbed an extra cache. We’ve decided that we’re going to go back when the building is supposed to be finished somewhere between 2026 and 2028 so hopefully if that cache is still around we’ll get it then haha!
Saturday in Barcelona….
And so on our last day in Barca we took the bus tour around the city and ended up over at the Olympic stadium where MrB became Freddie Mercury and I turned into Montserrat Caballe…it had to be done. We quickly followed this embarrassing rendition with a speedy find at Improvisado #7 Montjuïc – La Proa in fact truth be told this one hadn’t even been on our radar but I spotted a cacher’s trail and I could just see the corner of what looked to be a Geocache, and thankfully that’s what it turned out to be. I signed the log and we moved on towards our real goal for the day Barcelona Death which was one of the most favourited Geocaches in the city so we wanted to see what it was all about. If only we knew what we’d let ourselves in for…!
The cache was a puzzle, not one that you could solve at home so it meant using the old grey matter out in the field. Easier said than done when most of the previous finders are Spanish and so any possibility of gleaning any additional hints is limited.
First, a little about the location. As you may have deduced from the name of the cache the coordinates take you to the centre of a cemetery. This is the largest cemetery in Barcelona, and definitely the biggest one I’ve been to. There are over 152,000 people buried there and it’s actually quite an impressive place to visit, don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t call it a tourist stop but if you are in the area then oddly enough I would recommend going in. It’s set on a hill overlooking the sea and Castell de Montjuïc. The graves are really beautiful, from the archaic designs to the more modern looking tombs there is some really nice architecture to behold here and I think in the two hours that we spent trying to find our way around looking for clues to the cache we must have covered at least a third of it. There’s even a bus service that runs through the cemetery because it’s that large. You really could get lost in here, in fact, we did, several times. It’s quite the labyrinth.
And so, the cache itself, warning this may contain some slight spoilers…
The first part you need to solve is an enigma, which we unnecessarily made a bit of a meal out of. Even just looking back at it now gives me a headache, I think by some divine intervention I managed to solve this part. Don’t ask me how but either way we then raced on to the next waypoint which was slightly harder. My advice solve this part at home 🙂
At this second waypoint we were told that we would find some magical papers and the ashes, or earth dust, would reveal the values of the letters ‘W’, ‘A’ and ‘R’. This bit seemed to take our little noggins a lot longer to work out than it should have. MrB came up with the brainwave though and after *queue spoiler* a little sprinkling with some soil the paper did indeed reveal the clues. Very clever, and very Indiana Jones. A great one for the Geokids!
Next up was another enigma, and my brain must have been engaged from the last one as I soon had that part unravelled and we headed straight off to the next coordinates. A joint solve on the last part of the puzzle meant that we had the final coordinates and from there we just had to get to the cache. Which sounds a lot more simple than it actually was. By this point the labyrinth had us well and truly in its grasp and we had no idea which way was which. The GPS gives you a rough idea of where you are and where the final is but to get there you have to navigate the layers and layers of the cemetery and decide which way round to go. It was a hot day and the stairs got to both of us. I was still full of my nasty head cold which made progress even slower so we were both pretty happy when we found a toilet block halfway round to freshen up a little. But what we really wanted was a drink – and a stiff one at that!
Around two hours had elapsed from the time we started to the time we found and signed the cache. We were so chuffed to add our name to the log sheet but then came the realisation that in order to get back to the Olympic stadium for the bus we would need to go back into the cemetery! Doh!
You would not believe how thankful we were to get back to that bus stop…especially as there was an outdoor cafe serving beers which I definitely think we’d earned!
All in all it was a great adventure, and probably the most memorable part of the trip just because of the sheer insanity of it all. You’ve gotta love Geocaching for making you do some ridiculous things!
Anyway, until next time, happy caching and safe travels guys!