Sunday, July 15, 2007

An athletic tour of Olympic Barcelona

It took me 42 years to visit Spain for the first time, but this is my second times in 14 months. First time was Madrid, for business. This time, Barcelona, the capital of Catalona, for a weekend with the family.

I'm not going to blog about the vibrant culture which animates both the city and its large and friendly population, nor about the amazing genius of architect Gaudi, but relate my visit of the city as a runner (of course!).

The boys are late morning sleepers since they arrived in Europe, almost 3 weeks ago. I left before 7am with just a map, but no scale on it. I was therefore relying on my new Garmin Forerunner 205 to tell me how much of a tour I could accomplish before our day of visit of the city.

Spain is known for its late and active night life, and it's not a legend! 7am on a Saturday felt like running in a deserted city. Everybody was still sleeping, except the BCNeta! workers. BCNeta! stands for Barcelona Citutat Neta (clean city). The fact that I mention it is not fortuitous. It is really hard to keep such a large mediterranean city clean, without any rain for several months. It requires quite an initiative, which you can see at work, early morning and throughout the day: recylcling bins, sweepers, cars with high pressure water hose to clean the sidewalks. And dog owners cleaning after their dog. Almost... Anyway, again, any effort to keep the sidewalks clean is much appreciated by us, runners. And, incidently, by the thousands of tourists.

The layout of the city is rather simple, around the downtown area: a grid of large avenues with a few diagonals, like in Washington DC, with the impressive Avinguda Diagonal and its famous brand stores. It's when you get in the hills (e.g. Montjuic Park or near the Guell Park) that it's getting more confusing.

Here is a simple itinerary, a tour of the city in 15 miles (click to enlarge):

  • The never ending Sagrada Familia project:

  • The arenas where I could smell the bulls getting ready for the Sunday night fight,
  • The Olympic city created for the 1992 games,
  • The beaches at the Marina, where we later enjoyed a swim in the surprising waves,
  • The small neighborhood of Barceloneta,
  • The museum of history of Catalonia,
  • The mirador of Chritophe Colomb, pointing to the distant America:

Then, climbing the Montjuic Park:
  • The Miramar hotel and its amazing view over the entire city for the ones who can afford,
  • The Monjuic Castle, a military fort and prison, overseeing the Mediterranean sea and the huge and modern harbor of Barcelona,
  • The Olympic Stadium erected for the 1992 games, but already under renovation after just 15 years (the ancient Greeks would find this weird, when we still have pieces of their original stadiums),
  • The monumental avenue of Queen Cristina.
The key tip to remember when exploring Barcelona is: run early in the day! Not easy for the readers coming from the US (jet lag), but it makes a huge difference. The good news though is that 9am is still early in Spain (on weekends at least)!

After this short virtual visit of Barcelona, I wish you have the opportunity to stay yourself for a few days in this appealing city. Max, who celebrated his 15th birthday on this Sunday 15th of 07/07, kept telling us he wants to come here for College. We'll see... By the way, he was born during the 1992 Olympics of... Barcelona. Interesting connection and timing!

Farther, in Europe!


Phil Essam said...

Greetings Jean,

Nice blog. Great read. thanks for the link to the PUM link. I shall add yours to the Ultra link list.



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Adelyn said...

Sounds like an amazing trip! I love the few pictures you've posted as well. Though i've been to europe a few times, Barcelona is a city I've yet to visit but hope to explore someday. Thanks for the running perspective!

Unknown said...

42 years is a very long way!
I also have been to Spain, but it took me 25 years. Most of all I liked Barcelona. It is amazing city. Great architecture, nice people, superb food, a relaxed atmosphere, perfect shopping, a nice climate; Barcelona has it all. And somehow, everybody seems to agree on this. Perhaps this is the reason why Barcelona ranks second (after Paris) worldwide in numbers of visitors per year.

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Running Barcelona

Unknown said...

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Running Barcelona