Friday, December 12, 2014

INDEX

THAILAND

Post-sunset shot at Ko Adang National Park headquarters beach.

INTRODUCTION - WHICH ISLAND OR BEACH?

ADANG

BULON LAE

CHANG (big Chang eastern Gulf)
Little Ko CHANG, Andaman side
CORAL ISLAND

JUM

KANCHANABURI
KRADAN
KRABI, RAILAY, TON SAI
KHAO LAK
KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
KHO KHAO
KUT (KOOD, KUD)

LANTA
LAO LIANG
LIBONG, HAT YAO
LIPE

MAK (MAC, MAAK)
MUK (MOOK)

NANGYUAN
NGAI (HAI)

PANYEE/PANYI
PATTAYA
PHANGAN
PHANGAN PART 2
PHANG NGA BAY
PHAYAM
PHRA THONG
PHUKET
PHI PHI
PHI PHI NEWSPAPER ARTICLE BY TEZZA

RAILAY, TON SAI AND KRABI TOWN
RAYA/RACHA

SAMET
SAMUI
SIBOYA
SIMILAN ISLANDS
SIMILAN ISLANDS LIVE-ABOARD
SUKORN
SURINS ISLANDS

TAO
TARUTAO

WAI (WHAI)

YAO NOI
YAO YAI



General Thailand Information

SOME TIPS ON NOT DROWNING

WET WEATHER INFORMATION

SNORKELLING IN THAILAND

THAILAND'S BEST BEACHES



INDONESIA
Spoiling visitor on Seraya Island - West Flores

BALI
BALI'S BEST BEACHES - incl THE BUKIT PENINSULA
BALI - AMED
BALI - BEDUGUL AND LAKE BRATAN
BALI - CANGGU
BALI - JIMBARAN
BALI - NUSA LEMBONGAN
BALI - NUSA DUA, TANJUNG BENOA AND GEGER BEACH
BALI - MEDEWI
BALI - MUNDUK
BALI - LOVINA
EAST BALI - PADANGBAI AND CANDIDASA
BALI- PEMUTERAN AND MANJANGAN ISLAND
BALI RICE TERRACES EAST - SIDEMAN
BALI RICE TERRACES WEST - KEBUN VILLAS
BALI RICE TERRACES TIRTA GANGGA + WATER PALACE


BINTAN

LOMBOK - THE GILI ISLANDS
LOMBOK - THE KUTA LOMBOK AREA

PERAMA SLOW BOAT - FLORES/KOMODO/LOMBOK

SERAYA & KANAWA ISLANDS + LABUANBJO - FLORES



MALAYSIA
Salang beach on Tioman

GORGEOUS TIOMAN ISLAND

CHERATING BEACH

KAPAS ISLAND

LANGKAWI

LANG TENGAH

PERHENTIAN ISLANDS

REDANG ISLAND

SIBU ISLAND



AUSTRALIA
Bound for Hook Island on Oetella

CRUISING TROPICAL ISLANDS ON A BUDGET

BUDGET RESORTING ON THE WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS

SPENDING TIME AT AIRLIE BEACH

BYRON BAY - BEACH PARADISE

NOOSA HEADS - MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE



GREECE
Paradise Beach - Kos

GREEK ISLAND HOPPING



TURKEY
Paragliding Mount Babadag to Oludeniz Beach

BUDGET CRUISING AND PARAGLIDING THE TURQUOISE COAST
THE NORTH AEGEAN COAST
THE SOUTH AEGEAN COAST




SPAIN
Bay just south of Portas Vells, south east Mallorca

NTRODUCTION
BARCELONA
IBIZA
MALLORCA/MAJORCA
MONTSERRAT


READERS' TRIP REPORTS
Trip reporter Cocodrilo at Similan's viewpoint
Read the trip reports or submit your own


THE FORUM
Yon Cassia has a lean and hungry look (image Deco Dermots)

Questions, comments, shoot the bull.



GENERAL
Kwak joins the Worry Collective - image BEDARD

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 1
JUST FOR LARFS - PART 2: STONES FROM THE JOKER IN THE GLASS HOUSE (1 thru 11)

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 3: THE WORRY COLLECTIVE

ABOUT THIS SITE


LADY TEZZA'S TRAVELLING JAPAN
Fashions for sale in Takeshita dori - Tokyo

The basics - Osaka - Kyoto - Hiroshima&Himeji - Takayama - Tokyo - Kyushu - Daytrip to Mt Fuji National Park - Accessing your money - Other helpul stuff

-----------------------------------------
If you have questions, please don't post them below - I seldom get to scroll down this far. Put them in THE FORUM which I try to check most days when not travelling.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

MONTSERRAT

Visited July 2014


Montserrat is a small but conspicuous mountain area about 30km north west of Barcelona (image Spain Info  http://www.spain.info/)


The area gets thousands of visitors each day, not so much for the trekking which was my attraction, but because of the spectacular monastery built by Benedictine monks half way up the mountain. The first church was constructed in the 12th Century, but the present buildings reflect later construction and reconstruction starting 1854 after periods of unrest such as when Napoleon's army sacked the joint. 20th century additions include museums, transport termini, apartments and restaurants. This is the most important religious retreat in north-east Spain and the presence of the statue of the Virgin of Montserrat (the Black Madonna) attracts people from all over the country plus international pilgrims. (image David Crockett)

I FORGOT MY CAMERA!
I realized 10 minutes after leaving my Barcelona hostel that I didn't have my camera. Not to worry, it was a cloudy drizzly day and I figured vision would be pretty misty up on the mountain, and knew that Google images would have a bunch of clear shots taken by more skillful photographers than me, often with better cameras than my elcheapo Olympus point and shoot. I have no problem in using others' pics as long as I acknowledge the shooter and link their site. If they subsequently object, there are plenty of substitutes. btw you wouldn't believe how much of my pics and text has been ripped off without acknowledgement - often by commercial sites.

How bad was the vision when I visited? Well right on top at distant Sant Jeroni the place was enclosed in cloud. Lower down vision was limited to a misty 15km across the surrounding lowlands. Closer areas were not too bad. For instance the above shot is taken from the Path of Les Bateries and I got a 75% slightly misted view of the monastery from there although the higher areas were not very clear.

SOME ADVICE TO PEOPLE WHO COME WITH DAYTRIP TOUR OPERATORS
When I returned from my initial trek to St Jeroni it was early afternoon and I noticed crowds had more than quadrupled. Judging by the number of big tourist coaches in the vehicle parking areas down the mountain it seemed many had come on commercial day trips. Most of these give a guided tour of the basilica and then allow a few hours free time. Many customers seemed to use some of this to fang up and down the 2 funiculars to get a some more distant views of the monastery and the mountain. A word of advice: the views immediately after getting off the funiculars are not bad but if you are prepared to walk a few minutes along the adjoining trails you will be rewarded with much better outlooks. A few slopes along these but no heartbreakers. Surfaces reasonably good.

This is a view of the monastery (Heather has used a little bit of telephoto) from the viewing platform adjacent the funicular terminus at Sant Joan - not bad, but if you take the track hard right out of the terminus and walk for 5 minutes it is so much better. 10 minutes is better again. (image  http://www.heatheronhertravels.com/)

Rewarding viewpoints close to St Joan upper funicular station. For technical reasons I find it hard to construct a distance scale on Google images with big height variations - the straight line distance from the terminus to the camera image far left is 600m.
This upper left track continues to Montserrat's highest point, St Jeroni (1236m). You are looking at maybe 2 hours return. The lower left goes in a big circle with some fine valley and plain views. You can also join other tracks to get back down to the monastery, one by the Santa Cova  (the cave in which the Virgin of Montserrat was found). The track to the right also goes back to the monastery - a side route will take you via the Santa Cova. Free maps detailing these routes and more in various languages can be obtained at the information office in the main structure opposite the rack-railway and cable car arrival points.

CAREFUL AT THE HAIRPIN
On the top right path to St Jeroni it is easy to make a wrong left turn only 2 minutes from the terminal. Here you come to an acute corner - the majority of people, me included, took the narrow downhill track. This will get you to St Jeroni, but is longer, rougher and doesn't have those fabulous viewpoints a short distance up the other wider better surfaced track. Later close study of the direction sign at the corner showed it was technically correct but a bit misleading in the way its arrow pointed.
btw the start of the St Jeroni track is hard right from the exit at the rear of the terminus, not side as I've shown.

DAY TRIPPERS AND THE SANTA COVA FUNICULAR.
The Santa Cova funicula (image http://www.funimag.com/)

Most day trippers will take this short, steep drop from the monastery. However you do not arrive at the cave where the image of the black virgin was first found. This is another 25 minutes walk. It is a nice walk with some fabulous views of both the monastery plus down into the valley and over the plain. It is also lined with about a dozen impressive works of religious art in stone including stuff by Antonio Gaudi and Josep Limona. But the path has some major slopes which gave this very fit dude a pretty good workout.

The chapel built around the cave where the statue was found is small and cute and has free entry (image rosesandjessamine)

 The black madonna statue there (mid right) is a replica - at 300mm max it is tiny. The original statue has been moved up to the basilica at the monastery where it is queue for view (image Sacred Destinations).

 Is it worth the walk? Well for all but unfit people, I'd say yes. For them, a stroll a short distance along the path to one of the viewpoints is time well spent.
btw if you are keen you can take the walking track back up to the monastery instead of waiting for the funicular. I found it steep but not a heartbreaker - takes about 15 minutes and has more wonderful outlook points.

Another point to daytrippers. Montserrat is pretty high and way cooler than the Barcelona you leave. It's a good idea to bring something warm to slip on. And if you plan to do much more than 5 minutes walk along each track, some suitable footwear is a way better idea than the sandals or smart street-wear many fashion conscious ladies were sporting.

TEZZA'S TREKKING
As said, I didn't come for the monastery/religious stuff, or the views (although the latter are a bonus). I came for the trekking. I really enjoy an uphill slog thru the bush. With wrecked knees from too much jogging in poor shoes/no shoes when young, I'm not so keen on the downhill parts.
To repeat: grab a trekking map/instructions in your language from the information office in the main structure opposite the arrivals termini. This place is busy but the efficient ladies soon gave me what I needed.

I first shot up the funicular to St Joan and took off on the path to St Jeroni. This was about 2 hours return. I then had a look around the other tracks from St Joan to get the info for those nearby day tripper viewpoints mentioned above. After which I decided to head back to the monastery - down the La Serra Liaga/Les Bateries tracks - maybe 45 minutes. Some great views along here. And big time sore knees. I then shot down the Santa Cova funicular and walked across to look at the Holy Cave chapel, returning uphill to the monastery  - 50 minutes from the funicular.
Slopes mostly gentle to moderate but you get a good workout on the last 10 minutes up to Sant Jeroni and both ways on the Santa Cova track. But none of what I call heartbreakers - where really fit dudes say STREWTH!! or similarTrack surfaces not too bad - pretty stony in parts but no trip roots or wading in streams - joggers will cut it but not flip-flops or fancy day shoes. Signs reasonably good despite my boo-boo at the first hairpin going to St Jeroni.
I'm used to lots of wildlife from trekking the Australian bush (I keep a pretty keen eye open because some of it is lethal) but I saw virtually no animal or bird life on the Montserrat trails despite the vivid claims in the trek notes.

Stairs in the final section to Sant Jeroni give a good workout. Hey, a jogger passed me here. Strewth!!
(image David Crockett)

VIEW FROM THE TOP
As already mentioned when I reached the very top at St Jeroni it was encased in cloud. Disappointing - I'd heard you can see Barclelona, the Pyrenees and even Mallorca on a clear day. But I figured Google images would have some good ones. Well there were none from dudes with the big lens picking out Mallorca or even Barcelona. Below are some of the better ones I found:

Some of these shots click-expand nicely (http://blocjordi.wordpress.com/)


 (Wikipedia)


(Raidlight)


(David Crockett)

On a clear day the panorama from lower down can be pretty good. Check this shot from the La Serra Liaga/Les Bateries route:
(Barcelona home)

THE BASILICA
You will have to queue in tourist season to get a close up of the transferred Black Madonna statue, and I hate queues. But I found access to the basilica itself hassle and cost free. The interior is pretty impressive:
(Barcelona home)

GETTING THERE
Dozens of tour operators offer day trips - if you are time-short you can do a half day visit.
I went independently. I found the R5 line at Pl Espanya metro station (enter on the north side of the big square and head north-west) where 2 dudes have a Montserrat counter. I bought a combined train, rack railway/cable car (your choice, but you have to commit to one and can't mix and match), funicular return ticket for 27euro - this is a discount to buying individual tickets along the way and also includes 2 free metro rides. They sell other deals including the full monty which gives you entry to all the museums etc. The trains leave hourly, take just over and hour and connect with either the cable car at the first Montserrat stop (Aeri Montserrat)  or the rack railway at the next stop (Monistrol Montserrat). The Sant Joan and Santa Cova funiculars up at the monastery run about every 20 minutes.


The dude at Espanya said the rack railway from Monistrol has the best views so I took it instead of the cable car. WARNING: coming back down don't blindly follow the bus daytrippers and get off at the intermediate stop - this is the bus/car park area and is some distance from the R5 Monistrol railway station. If you make this mistake you will have to sit around for another hour for a train which goes right down, although trains run down to the intermediate station every 20 minutes or so. Don't ask me how I know this.
 (image http://margaretmuirauthor.blogspot.com.au/)

Well I dunno - the cable car looks pretty spectacular to me. One disadvantage at least if you do your return run late in the day is that many people who got on at  Aeri Montserrat railway station for the return trip to Barcelona had to stand in the crowded train (Esoxlu).
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Aint weather fickle? I shot this pic from the departure hall at Barcelona airport next day. Nothing wrong with visibility then.


BACK TO THE INDEX

IF YOU SEE MISTAKES OR HAVE EXTRA INFO PLEASE POST BELOW. BUT IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS PLEASE POST THEM IN THE FORUM WHICH I CHECK MOST DAYS - I RARELY RETURN TO THESE INDIVIDUAL LOCATION PAGES.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Spain

last visited July 2014


Near Nuria - Pyrenees mountains

I first saw Spain back way back in Franco's time - I was staying in south-west Mediterranean France and had 4 spare days before picking up my girlfriend (now wife) in Rome. Seeing I was so close I decided to head west. Fanging down the Spanish autoroute, I saw a sign for Tossa de Mar.I knew de Mar means of the sea, so I hung a left and headed down this amazingly twisty road to the coast. Tossa blew me away - the perfect picture-postcard Costa Brava holiday town. Ever since I've had more time to travel I've been looking for a decent fare into the area. Singapore Airlines came through at last - into Barcelona which is about a 70 minute bus trip south of Tossa. On account Barcelona is a major traveller destination in itself, has a bunch of attractive places nearby and is the logical departure point for Ibiza and Mallorca islands, the decision was a no-brainer.
Plus Barcelona claims to have the best big-city beaches in the world. Well hell, this is a BEACHES and Islands blog - just gotta see that. So is the claim true? More on that later.

Places mentioned on this blog. Okay, San Sebastian is not exactly near Barcelona. But it is known for its beaches and as a major surfing area  so is a magnet for a beaches freak an ex-surfer like me.

BARCELONA

I'll link the other locations as I finish each page. May take a few weeks tezza 06 August

IBIZA
MALLORCA
SAN SEBASTIAN
TOSSA DE MAR
MONTSERRAT
PYRENEES
L'HOSPITALET DE L'INFANT
SITGES

BARCELONA

Visited July 2014


It's generally considered that metropolitan Barcelona is bordered by the Mediterranean, the 2 rivers north and south and the range of hills on which Tibidabo (please excuse spelling on map,but it is very time consuming to change) is most visible from the city. The airport is a relatively short distance to the south of the metropolitan area. I forgot to add a scale - it is 8km from the Tibidabo place marker to the Beaches place marker - metro Barcelona is compact. North of course is straight up. It is 120km in a north-east direction to the south-west Mediterranean French border.


Some places mentioned on this page.

 As said elsewhere, Barcelona claims to have the best big city beaches in the world and as a Beaches blogger I had to check this out.

BEACHES

Barcelona has 9 beaches over a 5km stretch from Sant Sebastia in the south to Llevant. Banys Forum further north is an enclosed swimming area with no sand but lots of other attractions. Note these beaches did not exist in their present form before the '92 Olympics - they were created to increase the attraction of the city. I've experienced Sydney post-Olympics: not too many initiatives have given a major long term benefit. But these beaches have for Barcelona, being heavily used by locals and tourists alike. The most accessible to visitors are the first 4 from the south, but very good bus and metro transport means any beach is no great stretch. Forget about the bus and metro - a good walkway runs in back of the beaches with plenty of restaurant/bars, workout areas and rest stops and its an entertaining stroll to do the stretch. This is people-watching paradise - bikini babes, hunks, jocks, naked people, fashionistas, joggers. in-line skaters, skate boarders, surfer dudes, volleyballers, basketballers, fitness freaks, beach-footballers, beach-tennis players, lovers, street entertainers, hippys/new-agers,/freaks and normal families.
I've added Placa Catalunya to the Goolgle Earth image because it is tourist central.
Lower image from Barcelona Yellow which is a pretty good general resource.





For some reason I only took one pic of Barcelona's beaches, so I pinched the lower one from Barcelona Yellow. Both give a good idea of the beach scene. Behind the people showering in the top picture is one of the Chiringuitos - beach bar/restaurants. Each beach features one or two of these and they are very popular. Naturally you will pay a premium, but prices are not over the top. I seem to remember 2.2 euros for a healthy glass of wine. 
Each beach has at least 2 fresh water showers - outsiders soon get used to semi-naked (or in the case of Mar Bella, completely naked) people splashing about under the spray. All beaches come with one or two lifeguard towers, access for the disabled, change/toilet blocks, water safety/quality posters and one or two have extras like workout equipment (how I miss the chin-up bars from my local beach when travelling), skating ramps, beach volleyball areas, wind surfing sections, equipment hire etc. 
All is not perfect - the "golden" sand is in fact yellow-brown, it is coarse grained (I personally don't mind this - much easier to clean feet after the beach), the water is not particularly clear and the surf in summer is crap, restricted mostly to wimpy shore breaks (winter storms probably bring good surf). A good point (probably) is that for some reason tidal range is tiny - seems to be a half-meter at the most. I liked the fact that the walkway behind the beach was patrolled by frequent police and the occasional first aid van.

MAR BELLA
This is Barcelona's official nude beach. It is the third beach north of the Olympic marina which kind of divides the beach strip into two parts. Mar Bella is easily reached by metro from Poblemou station about 2 blocks inland on the L4 line and by using the H16 bus which serves all the beaches every 12 minutes.
The nudists mainly stick to the area in front of the dunes but such was the crowd when I called by that they extended past this region which represents about one third of the total beach area. Note like all Spanish nude areas "textiles" are welcome - although there were fewer here than most other clothing optional beaches I visited. Mar Bella has the life guard tower, showers, beach bar/restaurant etc I've outlined higher on the page.
Barcelona Yellow's pic above is a bit misleading in that when I visited weekend days in high summer (July) the beach was absolutely packed. This was somewhat disconcerting to me because although I'm a longtime naturist and have visited many clothing optional beaches, my usual location back home is a 12km strip of country-area sand where the nearest people (maybe nude/maybe not) are usually at least 300m away. BTW the mixture of locals to tourists at Mar Bella seemed to be 80/20 - by the white patches on display quite a few travelers seemed to be keen to sample some all-bare sunbathing for the first time. Good for them.

So does Barcelona have the best big-city beaches in the world?
Depends. If you judge it on sand quality, water clarity and surf, Sydney for one kills it. I've never been to Rio, Perth, Durban or Cape Town but I have an idea they would trump it too. So possibly would quite a few others. But if based on facilities, ease of access and closeness to tourist and residential areas the claim is probably quite justified.

OTHER BEACHES. Note Barcelonans and visitors have a host of further beach choices. The coast for 50km or more both sides of Barcelona is a continuous string of beaches. Natural beaches and nice ones with good access out of Barcelona - train lines run along them. Plus 60-70km north gets you into the sheltered coves of the breathtaking Costa Brava.
Codolar beach, Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava


BARCELONA GENERAL
It's not my aim to do a travel guide to Barcelona - plenty of websites and books do this well. Instead I'll make a few observations and outline a few of the places I went.
Pluses: a compact city with excellent, frequent inexpensive transport. The T10 multi-transport ticket is great. Bicycle friendly if that's your thing. I am not a frequent big city visitor but it seems to me that there are more inexpensive tourist accommodation offerings than at most western touristy big cities. Not that the place is lacking in high end joints. I liked the abundance of street restaurant/bars with inexpensive food and drinks and usually the chance to sit at a pavement table for a slight premium. In my Australian state stupid liquor licensing laws sees a shortage of these type of places. Barcelona is tourist friendly with good signage and other services plus a wide range of attractions in a compact area (you could easily walk to most) and some very appealing destinations in the nearby hinterland. The locals are friendly. They seem careful drivers and are super attentive at pedestrian crossings.
The downside: Barcelona has been rated scam central in tourist surveys. One guy tried the bird-crap/pickpocket routine on me. Alerted by Wikitravel's excellent advice (see STAY SAFE at the end of this page) I told him to get lost. Unfortunately Wiki did not mention the short-change routine, probably because anyone with half a brain would not fall for this. On my first day a railways ticket seller took advantage of my unfamiliarity with fares and the currency to pull the slow change trick on me: handing out coins, with-holding notes until I gave him the look, and still with-holding one so I walked away short 5 euros. You may scoff at a 5 euro loss but I'm income low - there had to be a reason I stayed in a tent and several backpacker joints during my Spain visit. Anyway, I believe in karma - one day the sky will fall in on this spiv and he'll probably moan: WHY ME?. 
On the plus side acts of violence in Barcelona are reportedly rare (why am I thinking of violence right now?) and I must say I did not see one fight (try doing that for just an hour in central Sydney on a weekend night) or feel intimidated in the early hours in lonely areas.
My other criticism is that the metro underground tunnels and platforms were extremely hot - near 40 celsius by the feel. Plus there are too many steps without escalators which make lugging heavy bags around in the heat a hassle (I think if you walk a million miles you will usually find an elevator, so all is not lost for disabled people).

BARCELONA BUS TURISTIC
With limited time I figured one of the best ways of seeing the many attractions was by using the Bus Turistic. Frequent departures, multi-language audio commentary and 3 different routes make this hop-on hop-off service user friendly. If you purchase more than one route you can spread them over 2 consecutive days which is what I did. If you can only afford or have time for one route, check the online info to see what appeals - my feeling is the blue route is most attractive although if you visit the Sagrada Familia independently (which is dead easy - it is not a long walk from Placa Catalunya and there are closer metro stations) the red route may be better value.
A word of advice: before boarding ask if there are any changes to the route. My red route tour without warning completely skipped the Montjuic area which I considered the most interesting part of the trip. This was because a Harley Davidson convention that morning blocked the bus' usual access to the mountain. So we fanged down Parallel avenue and sat around on a bus stop at the port with our fingers up our dates for 20 minutes "to maintain schedule". When I asked why they didn't access the mountain by the many other routes they claimed they were too narrow for the bus. What a load of toss - I was staying in the access area and the roads were plenty wide enough with big trucks and tourist buses constantly passing thru. But it may have taken a few minutes more and Bus Turistic didn't want to upset their schedule (not that the schedules don't get off - you often seen 2 buses running nose to tail instead of at the 4 or so minutes interval).
Fortunately I had wandered around Montjuic a few days before and so have some info lower on the page. But I deliberately missed some sections because I knew the Bus Turistic did them.

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
I'm not a big fan of architecture and found Bus Turistic's overemphasis on the modernista buildings along the route slightly boring. But there is nothing boring about Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece above - it's gobsmacking. You pass by here fairly early on Bus Turistic's blue route and following advice I stayed on the bus, did the full route and then hopped off next circuit at whatever grabbed my interest. This certainly did - I spent a pleasant half hour+ going around all 4 sides. The biggest trick in the crowded area (this joint is stuck in the middle of a suburban region) is getting far enough away to get the whole structure in - and my camera has a reasonable wide angle lens.

I didn't go inside. Check the line of people. It is about 1000 (10am), reasonably early, yet this line went down the side of the block and around the corner - at least 300m. I hate queues. Now a whole bunch of online travel operators offer SKIP THE LINE Sagrada visits. But I'm a tight-wad. I didn't fancy paying a premium over the people in line's E17 to see the interior. A nice Brit lady on the bus to Tossa scolded me - she said the interior was way more mind blowing than the exterior and made the impressive interior of the Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter (see below) seem third rate. All the same - E17 or more buys a lot of beer.
And "SKIP THE LINE" seems cheating from my Aussie egalitarian point of view.

MONTJUIC
This is a pretty impressive area, partly because it is the only high area close to central Barcelona and partly because it contains many of the structures used in the '92 Olympics plus lotsa parks and gardens, older historical buildings and some key museums/galleries.

The harbour cable car arrival point is not the highest spot on Montjuic but has a pretty good outlook, The middle tower is near the World Trade Center at Port Vell and the starting point is a tower hidden behind (but easily seen in the shot below), near the beach at Barceloneta. I didn't ride on account I'd read of huge queues. There is another shorter cable car further up the mountain. You can also access the high area by tramway, city-bus, Bus Turistic (usually) and a funicular. I walked up which is good exercise. 
btw the beach strip starts backgroound shortly to right of frame and extends well past left of frame in the shot above and well past the distant high building in the shot below..

The castle/fort is at the highest point, is huge and impressive. But there was an admission fee which this tightwad didn't want to pay. In background is the port area which extends several km towards the airport.


The exterior of the Olympic stadium. Looks older than a 90's structure on account it was built for the games in the 30's which were transferred because of the Spanish Civil War. Interior was all new in the 90s. Many other Olympic facilities nearby.


There are some grand old buildings on Montjuic. This is the Museu National d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) which is one of several galleries and museums in the area. 


The outlook north from MNAC is pretty impressive. You are looking down the avenue de la Reina Maria Cristina towards Pl Espanya which is a second tourist/transport focus after Pl Catalunya. 
The high point in the backgroundnd is Tibidabo which is considered the inland extent of Barcelona. It is less than 9km from the coast - as I said, Barcelona is a pretty compact city (although the conurbated towns stretching up and down the coast make it appear a hell of a lot bigger from the air and increase Barcelona's city population of 1.5m to over 5m).

TIBIDABO
Just about all metropolitan Barcelona can be seen on the above pic. Montjuic is far left background. Note my elcheapo Olympus doesn't stitch these panoramic shots together all that well, but you can get a fair idea. Panoramic shots usually click-expand nicely.


There are a church, communications tower and an amusement park on top of this 512m mountain. The area is popular on weekends. You can drive and bicycle right up but public transport is pretty good - the L7 train from Pl Catalunya, followed by either the historic blue tram or an adjacent city bus, both of which take you half way up the mountain thru some pretty swish housing areas and drop you at the funicular for the final half. I felt like a trek and so walked the final stage - stroll up the road for 10 minutes to a car parking clearing on the left. Take the dirt track from here. If you stick to this track you can go 30km north-west so take the first uphill branch. After a half-hour or so this reaches the road again (you have short-cut a considerable distance) and it's another 15min to the top. There are no heartbreaking slopes although it is a good workout. You will see other trekkers and a few mountain bikers. Plus road bikers on the tarmac sections - a good workout for the keen rider.


Looks like fun.


LA RAMBLA
Barcelona's walking boulevard starts at the Columbus monument adjacent Port Vell and runs north-west for about 1200m to Pl Catalunya. It is the place take a stroll from early evening until late - half the tourists in town and a lot of locals tend to be out and about. People watching is great: all those types I mentioned when describing the beaches' walkway can be seen with the exception of bikini babes and naked people. Fashionistas and street entertainers are present in greater numbers. No shortage of trendy places to eat and shop along the way. Take care - La Rambla is ground zero for pickpockets and scammers (image Barcelona Turisme)



THE GOTHIC QUARTER
Barcelona's old quarter of narrow lanes, oldest buildings etc is adjacent La Rambla on the north-east.

This is an area of narrow pedestrian lanes (um, this image seems stretched - dunno how that happened)....


.....A few slightly wider roads although no-one tried to get a vehicle thru here when I passed by at abt 2000 one week evening. The Gothic Quarter is a tourist magnet with lots of trendy shops, restaurants, bars, accommodation. It is a desirable place for locals to live: Sophie, one of the delightful staff at Parallel One Backpackers' was excited she was moving to a new flat here.


The old quarter also has a few open spaces. This is the area in front of the cathedral. 5 minutes stroll south is a similar square lined with restaurants and bars.


Barcelona Cathedral is no Sagradia but to me is a pretty impressively arranged heap of stone and glass. And the thing has been finished for over 600 years.


The interior doesn't hurt the eyes either. A top point for meanies like me - entry is free.


MY DIGS IN BARCELONA
I had 5 days in Barcelona coming into Spain and 4 going out. I spent both periods in the Sants-Montjuic area, the region just to the city side of Monjuic, partly because its narrow streets have a host of inexpensive accommodation and bar/restaurants and because it is relatively close to most things. A few minutes walk got me to 2 metro stations or onto Monjuic mountain; the closest part of La Rambla was a little over 10 minutes; the big station at Pl Espanya was about 15 minutes; so too was the nearest beach (Barceloneta) and Pl Espanya was about 20 mins. Frequent citybuses run up and down Parallel av, its northern border.
Coming in I stayed at Pension Piero aka Atlas Hostal (a hostal is not a hostel - but equivalent to a pension) a very quiet clean good value place 2 minutes from Parallel metro station; going out at Hostel One Parallel, a backpacker joint which has won several awards including Europe's best backpacker a few years ago and World's most social backpacker this year. I can attest it deserves such awards, largely due to the hard work of host Angel and his fabulous staff. Only complaint was that facilities for hand washing clothes were poor, something common in big city backpackers.


DAY TRIPS OUT OF BARCELONA.
There are so many, I won't try to list them - take a look at a trip-provider like viator.

I took one trip with viator, to the Pyrenees. 

With public transport being so effective I self-catered for 3 other day trips....

- to fabulous Montserrat (image Only- apartments.com)   PAGE DONE

-to the beach areas of Stitges.......

....and  L'hospitalet de L'Infant

Each of these is worth a separate page. I'll link them when done. tezza 06 August

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BACK TO THE INDEX


IF YOU SEE MISTAKES OR HAVE EXTRA INFO PLEASE POST BELOW. BUT IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS PLEASE POST THEM IN THE FORUM WHICH I CHECK MOST DAYS - I RARELY RETURN TO THESE INDIVIDUAL LOCATION PAGES.