In the last few days I saw many posts about Barcelona and thought, why not share some of my memories from our last visit to Barcelona. Actually it was already almost a year ago, yes it’s quite a long time ago and we didn’t share it with you but, as the saying goes, it is better later than never!
The Idea to go to Barcelona came to us when we realised that it is a kind of cheap destination to get to from Lithuania, Portugal (where we were at the time) and England so we could meet my parents and brother before Christmas. It seemed like a good plan and worked out well, with just a few complications!
Some years ago John lived in Barcelona, he is still in love with the place and knows the city well, I had been a couple of times but still for me it is a city with a lot to explore, and for my parents and brother it was a first time visit. We kind of felt responsible to show them around, but John likes to feel smart and important so was happy to be a guide. The meeting was just for a couple days, but without running around we managed to see and do quite a lot, and still fit in great coffee breaks and a dinner with our friend Pedro.
Barcelona: Capital of Catalonia
Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia where, strangely, my ‘Spanish’ is better understood than other parts of the country. Maybe because I am secretly better at Catalan than Spanish. The Spanish nation still thinks that the region belongs to them, many Catalans disagree. Oh well, technically…
Actually, I don’t want to touch the political parts of it. I will just write shortly about some places we visited and enjoyed together.
The weekend getaway didn’t start at its best. John had a massive toothache, I had almost broken fingers as he chose to share his pain by crushing my hand. Then our apartment reservation was cancelled at the last moment so we needed to fix it before the arrival of my family. We managed to get another apartment, but we didn’t solve the toothache problem, so the first evening John spent on the sofa without us. Meanwhile, I was busy meeting people at the airport and then enjoying the dancing waters at The Magic Fountain of Montjuic.
Antoni Gaudi, Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia
My favourite place in Barcelona is Park Guell. There was a special and true friendship between Eusebi Güell, a wealthy businessman, and the artist and architect Antoni Gaudi. They seemed to understand each other and created many amazing and charming pieces of architecture around the city. At the time Barcelona was a modern city, and Gaudi let his mind and imagination run free, making unusual architecture decisions to create projects like nothing else.
Güell wanted to recreate the British residential parks so the park was named in English, and engaged Gaudi to design it. Gaudi had a great respect for nature so he came up with ideas that merged together with the existing flora. He also designed different systems to collect and store water, based on the irrigation systems used in rural areas, which he had learnt about in his childhood. The park is really deeply thought out, including the details you don’t see, like water management and using vegetation to prevent erosion.
The terrace with its unique shape is probably the longest I ever saw in my life decorated with mosaic tiles. The terrace is supported by amazing doric columns and the ceilings are again decorated with mosaics. The large cross at the park’s high-point is just a perfect spot to look around Barcelona and the bay. It is a truly panoramic view with Montjuic, Tibidabo and La Sagrada Familia. For these reasons we couldn’t skip it during our short visit and we were lucky to have a nice day to enjoy the park.
Apart from the park, I would say in general we had quite a Gaudi day. We looked around in the city for more incredible examples of architecture by him – Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller, Palau Güell and of course La Sagrada Familia.
La Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece. Gaudi devoted years of his life to it, and the construction work is still going on, but Mr. Gaudi would be happy to know that his vision will be completed in the near future. We got our tickets in advance so we didn’t need to queue and actually I was really surprised by all of the security checks, they have easier ones at the airport!
This is a place where you should see by yourself because it is hard to describe it! All of the geometric details, symbolism, tombs, spires, facades… How precisely someone has to be able to think to count the incoming light angles, colors of stained glass, the physics, and materials needed to create the space so perfectly. As we don’t understand a lot about architecture the audio guide was super helpful. We spent some time just sitting, admiring and absorbing this building.
Gothic Quarter, La Rambla and that cat
Just walking around the city lets you touch and feel the history of thousands of years. Settlements dating from earlier than 5000 BC were found here with different tombs and dwellings proving how long ago this place was inhabited. You can time travel during the Roman and Medieval periods as well as more modern times. The Gothic Quarter with it’s narrow medieval streets are full of life, bars, shops and local restaurants. In the heart of this area is Barcelona Cathedral, a great example of the Gothic style of architecture already opened in 1298.
Almost next to it the famous Las Ramblas de Barcelona. The pedestrian street, or technically five streets end to end, is over a kilometre long with restaurants, bars, shops, entertainment for tourists. Honestly it is a nice and probably a ‘must see’ place to walk, but we would recommend to find less touristy place to enjoy amazing local cuisine and a glass (or a few) of locally produced beer or cava. Las Ramblas is pricey and for tourists, which usually means that the food will not be the best. We found a nice place on the way from their to Rambla de Raval, where we had to go and visit Botero’s Cat. This sculpture probably is one of the most famous symbols of Barcelona and for sure both young and old will want to take a picture with this gato!
I don’t remember so well everything we actually ate but for sure we didn’t skip Patatas Bravas, John’s favourite Pa amb Tomàquet (he even had a t-shirt with this recipe) or Estrella beer. There were more but I honestly can’t remember the other dishes. Like Always John made dinners, but it was not so local. As well as we didn’t miss a change to buy some local cheese, figs, dates and other delicious goodies from the markets.
Christopher Columbus and Transbordador Aeri del Port
Coming back to Las Ramblas, it runs from Plaça de Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. Should I ask you who is Christopher Columbus? He was neither Catalan or Spanish, but actually an Italian explorer and Navigator. In 1492, he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain expecting to find a new route to India, but instead discovered America. We thought that we would like to feel like explorers as well and got an idea to experience something new for all of us.
After a short walk along Barceloneta beach we aimed for the Transbordador Aeri del Port or “Port Cable Car”. Finally, we had managed to find something in Barcelona that John hadn’t done before, so it was a new experience for all of us. I think we chose the perfect moment for it because the sun was coming from the sea side, the sky was clear and super blue and so the city panorama became adorable. We all loved it! At least I did! it is like making a tour around Barcelona with your eyes from above.
The last evening walk (and others)
On the last evening we took a stroll around Parc de la Ciutadella and enjoyed watching the sunset behind the Arc de Triomf, and also stopped by the El Born Centre of Culture and Memories and looked at the exposed underground ruins. Barcelona is really just a great city to walk around, we stayed nearby to Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, so of course we took a walk and a look around that as well.
There are so many places to see in Barcelona and around it. If you want to be a good tourist and to see most of them it is not enough to come for just a weekend. Prepare yourself for a longer trip if you want to have a full food and culture adventure.
We all left Barcelona at different times and in different directions, but probably with the same good emotions and memories that we made together. John managed to get rid of his toothache and I got a beautiful Desigual dress 😀