Before our trip to Provence last thanksgiving (I'm bad at posting travel recaps on time, huh?) I landed my two feet in Spain for the first time. It had been on my personal bucket-list-before-thirty. I visited just under the wire in my thirty first year, so I'll call it an almost win.
Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe so it's very easy to get great flight deals to from the east coast. To me, It had that cosmopolitan feel of lot of tourism and students, kind of like Amsterdam.
Our trip was very interesting as we happened to arrive right after a tumultuous vote for independence. There were Catalan flags strung out everywhere, dotting the grand apartments on the boulevards we walked through.
I know many people will say that Barcelona is warm and lively, full of good food and welcoming people, but it's a true cliche. The city is both beautiful on foot and the prices are very reasonable for dining.
The concept of eating and drinking late into the evening was all I needed to be smitten with the city's laid back culture. We spent out days walking, drinking cava which was everywhere like water, and eating late into the night at tapas restaurants.
In terms of the big tourist draws, we opted to not visit many Gaudi museums because they're fairly pricey for tourists, but cheaper for residents. But the beauty is you can make your own guided tour on foot. Each house or building is also beautiful seen in the fading afternoon sunlight, the intricate tile work a fascinating maze to gaze upon. We did book a visit for the Sagrada Familia because it we knew it was absolutely spectacular, like a spaceship cathedral planted on earth.
For food, we mostly found a few tapas restaurants we enjoyed so much that we returned several times. The well-known Tapas 24 was as delicious as the hype, too. It was worth a stop for a long dinner of small plates, people watching the mix of locals and tourists.
One afternoon after walking down from the funicular on Montjuic, which I wanted to do even though I'm terrified of heights, we happened into a southern Spanish restaurant called Sucursal Aceitera that had a fantastic set lunch. I definitely recommend trying a restaurant at lunch for a full meal at a great price. Afterwards we somehow kept walking and made it all the way to the beach at sunset. I think Brian and I are addicted to just walking until our legs give out.
I also enjoyed the many markets, especially a few meals we had at Catarina market in Born. I've hankered for slices of tortilla we ate there ever since.
We made drinks a leisurely unplanned activity, opting often for Basque pintxos so we could snack and sip wine (cheaper late lunch!) or hanging out in local spots in the neighborhoods surrounding our hotel, like Born and Raval. I enjoyed an afternoon drink of vermut, unexpectedly. I've never been a vermouth fan until Barcelona where it's having a renaissance.
For lodging, we stayed in the Gothic Quarter in a small hotel for ease of access to the city. A word to the budget travelers: Airbnb is under a lot of scrutiny in Barcelona . We were stopped once by several kind school kids doing an investigative project on tourism for an interview, in turn giving us a lot of information about how the local debate on tourism is growing deeply critical of rental apartments. Given that atmosphere, we opted for a hotel in a central location. The prices were right so we had no qualms with the change of our travel pace.
Of course, I dusted off my very rusty Spanish skills from years of American classroom experience that included very little real world interaction when we arrived. To my chagrin, I quickly realized most people speak Catalan and then English, with Spanish in between.
Alas, that means I've got to make more trips around Spain to really learn. I found being around any amount of Spanish in Barcelona fascinating and addictive, like remembering a story you were told over and over again but without the right context. Here's hoping I make it back for the practice and the Jamon Iberico!
Churros and people watching on Las Ramblas
Barceloneta beach strolling.
Montjuic for the funicular.
Self guided walking tour of Gaudi buildings
La Catedral in Old City
Drinks in Raval
Meandering around Born
Parliament street in Poble Sec
To Eat and Drink
La Boqueria market especially for the jamon!
Restaurants around Mercat Saint Antoni
El Bosc de les Fades is a touristy spot I'm not ashamed I love
Irati for Basque pinxtos
Tapas at Sensi
Southern Spanish at Sucursal Aceitera