Turning 30 this past April, I was once again slammed in the face with the notion that there is a lot more to life than making the benjamins. In fact, there are probably so many layers to life that go unexplored, it is almost unfair to say that we are living life period. The revelation however, brought me to pseudo-spontaneously purchasing an airplane ticket to Brussels, Belgium for Labor Day Weekend. Question you say, the title says “Viva Espana! A La Barcelona”. Brussels was only the detour!
Barcelona has always been a sick concoction of travel-fantasy / infatuation for me. Having taken Spanish since the 7th grade and taking it throughout most of high-school, Spanish culture has always been dangled before my very eyes. It made me lust for this very gorgeous, very tempting, and very romantic city since I was about sixteen years old. I love my Google maps, my Google excel sheet, my email and everything possible that can be pre-planned, knowing full well that it can all potentially blow up in my face. I am not the greatest person when it comes to direction though, at least not without having physically studied a map of the area for a period of time.
Barcelona, Day One was busy to say the least. There wasn’t truly a plan to start out with, but I had labelled “hot spots” on a Google map to figure out exactly where things were located. Truth be told, this was my favorite day by far, and it was somewhat unplanned. (That would go for a lot of things on this trip actually.) The first stop took me to the harbor where I went up to the top of the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Vell. This gave a 270-degree view of the city (one quarter was water/cliff views, but equally beautiful). They only allowed about 3-4 people at one time because it is super cramped and crowded at the top. Making your way around the top, single-file is not for the claustrophobic mind you. However, you do get some pretty nice shots which makes great for photographers.
The good thing about Port Vell is that it is also the entrance to Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is difficult to describe – it is predominantly pedestrian, but it is lined with shops and cafes. There are also your typical tourist stands selling post-cards, shot-glasses, tacky t-shirts and the works. Midway up the main street are art vendors that you can purchase local pieces for your living room wall. That day there was some sort of antique fair so it was quite crowded. Still, it didn’t deter us from getting some gelato and taking a few pictures by the fountain as well as the inner alleys leading to the square.
A couple of the things that I love about Europe are their french doors and balconies. I would love to have a set of french doors leading out to a terrace or a small balcony just to enjoy coffee and music, or to draw with wine, or just to sit and talk with company. It is also more than abundant in Barcelona. The one thing that I didn’t see much of though was that infamous “Spanish Moss” that you see so rampantly growing on all the trees in Savannah, GA.
After perusing Las Ramblas for a good few hours, I made our way to Casa Batllo – a World Heritage Site and incredible architectural piece by Antoni Gaudi. I had heard about this and seen various pictures, but it completely blew me away to see this entire house designed by Gaudi. To describe the various individual parts of the house and Gaudi’s intent would not do it justice, but I will mention a few things. The entire inside of the house from top to bottom for the main stairway consists of varying shades of blue tile, varying shades to mediate the heat that would be brought in from sunlight at the top of the skylight into the rest of the house. In addition, each “apartment” is not numbered but “lettered”. Not only does this deviate from the norm, the letters are in Gaudi’s own “font”! Genius!
After the Casa Batllo siesta (when in Rome do as the Romans do), I managed to squeeze right into a reservation at Tablao De Carmen, a famous flamenco joint located in Poble Espanol. I had pre-purchased tickets as part of the “reservation” for flamenco show and tapas. (Mind you, this is a non-refundable “reservation” so if you miss your dinner, you are S.O.L.) There is a dinner option as well, but after reading reviews on TripAdvisor, the tapas proved to be plenty. Despite being a few minutes late, I was seated just one table away from the stage, giving us a marvelous view of the dancers as well as the “band”. Truly, I have to say, this is one of the best experiences that you could ever share with someone.
Walking back to the hotel was a great decision, as the weather in Barcelona for September was simply gorgeous at night. It gets to be a bit warm during the day, especially if you are walking around quite a bit. I discovered a musical fountain show just outside Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. The fountain itself is called Fonti Magica, and has 15-minute demonstrations to classical music during the summer evenings. Definitely my favorite part of ending the day was to be able to sit and relax, just enjoying the music (which was not the most ideal being that it was Disney classics in Spanish) as well as the people and the fountain all lit up.
One of the best things about Barcelona is that there are quite a few cafes and restaurants that are open into the wee hours of the mornings (say 1am, maybe 2am) where you can actually grab a bite to eat. The Spanish do love their nightlife as well as their siestas. A very chill and approachable people, I would say that if I had to settle somewhere, Barcelona has moved its way to the top of the list in Europe.
This marvelous day however, did not come with travesty. I did end up with about four blisters (and a fifth one starting at the end of the day) right at the balls of both feet. Go figure. Being pig-headed of course, I figured that it would go down overnight and I would be just fine the next morning for Barcelona: Day 2.
I’ll leave at that just to keep you hanging a little longer…
May your feet take you to many great places,
R/g, the Traveller