After our wonderful time in Madrid we headed to the airport at 5am to catch an Air Europa flight to Barcelona. We had originally planned on taking the train there just because that seams to be the European thing to do but when it came time to buy tickets they would have been over $300 for a roundtrip for two. Half-jokingly I checked flight tickets and lo-and-behold those rang up to about $200 with a shorter trip and at convenient times. No brainer. We would fly in for our long weekend in Barcelona.
We arrived in Barcelona bright and early at 8am without problems and found a bus that goes to downtown every 5 minutes. Done. Of course our hotel room wasn’t quite ready yet, which turned out to be great in hind-sight because we had no chance to
relax and fall asleep waste time but instead headed out into the city. The guidebook had said to check out the Cathedral of Barcelona and it certainly was an impressive Gothic church with all the amounts of gloom and glorious chapel niches. Definitely craftsmanship! Also very interesting were the offering candles, which were electric. Ha.
Back outside in the sun we strolled around Barri Gotic – Barcelona’s old neighborhood. You really feel a bit as if you are in a different time with all the little alleys. Well, so long as you ignore the plentiful Desigual shops that seam to be at every street corner. 😉 We found another rather old place and looked at a couple of ancient roman columns that were remains from an old Roman temple. So neat! Now hungry, we settled in for lunch at Allium restaurant and had a tasty boar burger and tagliatelle. Their food definitely hit the spot after all the traveling and sight-seeing.
We moved on to walk on the famous La Rambla street passing through beautiful squares on our way there. I thought La Rambla itself was quite overrated, touristy, and nothing too special; I much preferred walking the many other streets in Barca. But you obviously have to check it when you’re there. At the sea front end of La Rambla I found a kiosk that sold ice cream and Michael was excited to be able to buy a beer and drink it while walking around the city (oh American husband of mine….). Being by the sea is always amazing in my book and we walked around the pretty marina and the Barcelonetta beach. Who cares that it was chilly and the Mediterranean Sea was still freezing?! We were there! But because we got pretty cold and needed a break we sat down in a little beach front café and had a cup of coffee (translates to espresso there) con leche. So nice!! Those are seriously moments in life that I will be forever thankful for. What great memories!
We strolled back to our hotel through the Park De La Ciutadella (city park), which, though less famous than the Retiro Park in Madrid, was much prettier. We enjoyed seeing the beautiful Parliament of Catalonia and the amazing Cascada fountain built by none less than Antoni Gaudi and his teacher. At the end of the park stood a pretty Arc de Triomf (yeah we don’t have those in Germany, we seam to lose more than win. Hrrrhrrr).
After a little break in the hotel we were hungry again and thought about what to eat. Eating tapas in Barcelona had always been on my personal bucket list but ironically that first night I did feel like I needed a break from Spanish food even though all we had eaten had been super delicious. We found a great compromise at Mosquito Restaurant in El Born though, which served Asian tapas. And how delicious they were!
For our second day we had planned to see Barcelona’s number 1 sight: Sagrada Familia. Popular as it is and it being a Saturday the lines were long. Should have bought tickets online – so if you have a chance, be better prepared than we were and buy them online. Luckily the line did move somewhat quickly and we got tickets to get onto the church premises in another hour. Ah. OK. The guide book proclaimed that the Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Pau, another one of Gaudi’s works, was worth a trip to and so we walked there and back in the mean time.
The time finally came though and we got to go into the Sagrada Familia. Just the façade itself was incredibly detailed and so different than what I am used to in terms of how most European churches look (read: old and stuffy, not friendly and welcoming). We decided to get an audio guide and the cool thing about it was that we were able to share just one by using our own iPhone headphones. Savvy, or what?!
Inside the church was even more stunning. So bright and such beautiful lines and shapes and the way the stained windows filtered the light was just breathtaking. So worth the wait! Michael kept saying how this was the most beautiful building he had ever been in and I agree with him. I’d love to go back in a decade or two to see the progress. I can only imagine how glorious it will be.
Afterwards we were a bit hungry and did not want to eat in one of the tourist-trap-like spots around Sagrada Familia so we took the Metro to Paral·lel and ate at Quimet & Quimet, a tapas bar the guide book had recommended. Yeah, I was ready for my Spanish tapas in Barcelona bucket list box to be checked off. Turned out to be our favorite food spot in Barcelona! The place was packed but we were able to swoop in for a little standing table at the end of the small room. A tasty white wine and Spanish beer kept us company while we picked out Montaditos to try. They were all pieces of bread piled high with deliciousness. I’m drooling right now just writing about it! Once back home I was actually watching Cooking Channel and they featured Quimet & Quimet on one of their shows. Yeah, it’s that good! Nom!
Though we didn’t really want to leave Quimet & Quimet we eventually took the funicular and the gondola up Mont Juic to enjoy the view of the city. We walked back down from the Castel Mont Juic to the National Art Museum of Catalunya with a pit stop to look into the Olympic Stadium (and use their restrooms). A long walk for sure!! I was pretty beat by then and so we took the subway back to our hotel, rested for a bit, and reserved tickets online for the next day at Park Guell. We had learned from today. Yay us!
For our last night in Barcelona we had wanted to enjoy some more Spanish food and we wandered around old town until we found a spot on the little square at Basilica Santa Maria del Mar. Someone was playing music, people were out and about and the church was lit up. So beautiful! I was super pleased with my Padron Peppers and garlic scampi but surprised about the Patatas Bravas: they were French Fries! Good French Fries but still, I felt kind of cheated. Not sure why I had roasted potato cubes in my mind… Oh the high expectations of something sounding different. Haha. We strolled around the quarter for a bit longer after dinner. So beautiful! I am totally in love with this town and was so glad to be able to share it with my Love. A shared experience is double the fun indeed.
We had another tasty breakfast at the El Nostre Pa bakery around the corner from our hotel. Si, they remembered the terribly Spanish speaking tourists from yesterday. Thank heavens the staff was sooo nice and patient with our broken Spanish. Well nourished we took the Metro up to Park Guell and wandered around its free grounds until we finally found the entrance to the spectacular architectural area. #MapFail It was a beautiful day, finally much warmer than earlier in the week, and we enjoyed being outside and admired all the decorative tile mosaics. It was quite crowded, especially at the famous lizard sculpture, so we didn’t linger too terribly long though.
All set and done though we were getting close to lunch time and so we checked out Mercado de la Boqueria, a subway ride away in downtown. We had hoped it would have been similar to the tapas market in Madrid and the guide had highly recommended it but we didn’t really find much to eat there or if there was prepared food it was impossible to find a spot to eat. So we enjoyed a delicious fresh fruit juice and marveled at the fish and vegetables on display and then headed out to find a real lunch place.
Another one that the guide had recommended around that area was closed for good so we stumbled into the Bianco Noir bistro/bar that was run by a friendly Spanish woman and her Italian husband, who thankfully spoke excellent English. While we enjoyed good pork sandwiches and some cava (oh bliss), a group of young Italians came in to watch 2nd league Italian soccer on TV. Ah yes, we had stumbled into the local fan bar of Pescara Calcio. How ironic. We had a great time cheering for their team with them though and in return they let us in on where the best gelato was to be had in Barcelona. When in Europe…
Off we went, a quick stroll down La Rambla, through Placa Sant Jaume and we had found Gelaaati di Marco. Fantastic place! I could lay down in that ice cream and eat it all. So so good! So hard to find good gelato back home in North Carolina.
Sadly then it was time for us to get our bags from the hotel and fly back to Madrid where we caught our flights home the next morning. What a wonderful, wonderful trip we had had! Honestly, if I had to choose between Madrid and Barcelona I would probably choose Barcelona but only because of the Sagrada Familia and the beach. We had unforgettable food in both cities and they both offer way too many cool cultural sights to see. Tough tough call though! Just visit them both! 😉