|Subject: Spain Trip-Day 1|
Our trip began with an 8:00am departure from San Diego. Being the proper
travelers that we are we arrived at the airport two hours prior to departure
only to discover the queues at the Continental check-in counter were already
quite lengthy. Fortunately there was a specific line for international
travelers and we were able to bypass the long wait. The agent graciously
changed our two non-adjacent seats to two adjacent seats in an exit aisle.
This makes a big difference to me as I am 6 ft. 4 in. and airline seats are
quite confining to someone of my stature.
The flight across the country was uneventful. Good weather afforded us some great views of southwest Colorado where we were able to pick out the canyons of Mesa Verde, the heavy snows draping the San Juan Mountains, and the Animas River Valley where my brother's hometown, Durango, is located. I love flying over Colorado in the winter and identifying the various ski areas.
We arrived in Newark at 4:00pm and faced a 4½ hour layover. Some prior research on the http://www.chowhound.com site had revealed a Portuguese neighborhood (called the Ironbound) with interesting restaurants not far from the airport and adjacent to Penn Station. We dropped our bags at a left luggage office ($10.00) and grabbed a cab ($11.00) to Ferry St. We strolled up Ferry St. noticing the Portuguese and Spanish being spoken on the street and in shops. We passed a variety of bakeries and restaurants but none that had been suggested at the chowhound site. Asking directions we were pointed in the correct direction and found our goal The Mediterranean Manor eight blocks south of where we'd been dropped off.
Mediterranean Manor (255 Jefferson St. 973.465.1966) was quite an operation. A restaurant with several banquet rooms which were catering three different wedding parties that evening. Still early we had no problem getting a table alongside the window looking out on the working-class neighborhood. The Manor specialized in rodizio, meats skewered on a spit and charcoal broiled. Sara ordered feijoada and sangria while I selected the rodizio. What an event! We opted to skip the salad bar and munched on the tasty bread while waiting for our entrees. Soon Sara's huge plate of feijoada(black beans, pork, sausage) and my plate of side dishes(onion rings, fried plaintains, fried collared greens, etc.) arrived. Next came the parade of meats. The servers brought the meats, on the skewer, from the kitchen and carved them directly onto my plate. These meats included beef tenderloin, pork loin, chicken, spareribs, shortribs, roast beef, a variety of sausages and other meats that I simply lost track of their names. It was a carnivore's delight. All were succulent, juicy, and tender but much too much food and I finally had to throw in the towel.
We asked the hostess to call us a cab and watched the wedding parties arrive in their limos while we waited. After about 20 minutes we decided to strike out on our own in search of a taxi. We ended up walking back to the main street, Ferry St.. and still couldn't find a cab. In the meantime evening had fallen and the streets were full of traffic and Saturday night revelers on foot. Finally, I asked a mounted police officer where we might find a cab and he replied the safest bet would be at Penn Station and gave us directions. It was only a short two blocks to the station where we found the taxi stand and we were back at the airport gathered our bags and at the gate with a little less than an hour to spare. So, we managed to see a little of Newark, get an interesting meal, and kill a substantial part of our layover in the process.
The flight over to Spain on a DC-10 was booked full. A large portion of the plane was taken up by two distinct groups; a group of high-school students from Wisconsin and a group of retirees from Florida. Everybody gave a shout shortly after takeoff (in a light rain) when the plane was struck by lightening. Other than that it was a standard trans-Atlantic flight with us achieving a minimum amount of sleep.
Our flight arrived in Madrid at 10:30am. Our original plan was to spend the day in Madrid and catch an overnight train to Barcelona. So, I purchased a phone card and proceeded to call RENFE, Spain's national train system. Unfortunately, the engineers at RENFE had chosen to strike that weekend and no trains were running. Off I went to the Iberia Airlines window and picked up two tickets to Barcelona for later that afternoon. With a few hours to kill in the airport I used my phone card to its fullest potential and located our accommodations (using the Barcelona TimeOut Guide) for our stay in Barcelona.
Our flight touched down in Barcelona at 3:00pm. We hopped on the Aerobes from the airport to Plaza Catalunya at a cost of about $3.00 ea., quite a deal. Rain had started to fall as we crossed the city so once we exited the bus we scurried up into the Plaza under some trees where we converted our luggage into backpacks. Taking out our rain gear and umbrellas we hoisted our packs onto our backs and strolled the 5-6 blocks down the Ramblas and into the El Raval section two blocks to the west of the Ramblas.
Our hostal, La Terrassa (Calle Junta de Comerē 11, tel.93 302 51 74) was conveniently located. Just a block and a half to back entrance of the Mercat de la Boqueria and two blocks to Las Ramblas. This basic accommodation offered us a room about 9' by 20' with twin beds, wardrobe, nightstand, bathroom (shower, sink, &toilet), and window on a vertical airshaft. The cost was 4400 pesetas ( $26) a night. Due to our fatigue (24 hours of traveling by this time) we opted to stay here and splurge on accommodations later in the trip. We unpacked in the cramped quarters and took a three hour nap before starting the exploration of Barcelona.
I've uploaded two photos to the Travelzine website which are relevant to this day of our trip. You can see them at http://www.egroups.com/files/TheTravelzine/.
I'll leave each group of photos on until I post the next installment of the travelogue.
John Rule San Diego, CA