“Do you think the foie gras is overkill with the chorizo, four kinds of cheese, olives, aioli and bread? “ We had suddenly found ourselves back in Europe. With access not only to luxury items such as toasters, hairdryers and sofas but also to delicious foods that we have been dreaming about for several months whilst eating peanut butter and crackers in an effort to save cash. Being our two year wedding anniversary as well we decided that not only would we have all the delicious food, but a few bottles of wine would be acceptable also.
Barcelona is a city that many visit for city breaks and I have always wondered why it is one of the most popular destinations in the world each year. A little flat in the Grácia neighborhood set us back about 60 euros a night, which when compared to the outrageous price of dorm beds is a pretty sweet deal.
Enter Europe: phase two of our journey. It turned out that Grácia is the perfect spot to reintegrate into European society and get a sense of ‘normality’ as it were after 7 months riding around on chicken buses and sleeping in hammocks. After deciding to not wash our clothes with us while we showered as per usual and use the washing machine instead, we headed out to explore what was to be our little home for the next five nights.
“I want, tapas, in a square, with a beer whilst listening to the faint sounds of a strumming guitar as the sun goes down!” Not an unreasonable demand I thought, seeing as we were in Spain, so into the warren of narrow streets we went, each one lined with handsome five story balcony clad buildings. After finding initial refreshment in a little bar called El Otro (which was immediately designated our local) we tried to find some food. Initially unsuccessful in my demands for sundowner tapas with a Catalan soundtrack we went into a restaurant…but left shortly after when we couldn’t understand the diagram ridden menu. Feeling miffed at the lack of success we wandered towards home, and then stumbled across Plaça del Sol, which offered the sound-tracked tapas dream that we had been looking for. A handsome little square surrounded by bars serving small things to eat and cold things to drink, positioned perfectly so it gets the last of the sunshine…of course, being so near the equator for so long, we were not used to the sun going down at 10pm! The square was filled with people just sitting around enjoying the weather; some with guitars, some juggling, but everyone just chilling.
It wasn’t all sitting around squares, drinking cañas (draft beers) and cava; we ventured out to see the city a bit too. First stop was that strange construction project called the ‘Sagrada Familia’, Gaudi’s 100 year old ongoing project that is probably one of the most visited sites in the city. I find it hard to describe this thing creatively and there are many other more poetic people out there who could definitely do a better job so I will sum it up in one word…mental. Ollie described it as “like a castle in a child’s nightmare”. Here’s some photos of it, but they don’t do it justice.
Gaudi is a legend in this city and his works/influences can be seen all around the city. Including of course ‘Park Güell’ which we decided not to enter as felt the 8.50 Euro entrance fee was slightly steep seeing as you had to share the experience with thousands of other tourists. It irks me when you are forced to pay to enter public spaces such as this, so we didn’t pay it and retreated to a plaza for a beer. ..money better spent!
A stroll down La Ramblas showed us the touristy side of the city, but gave us the opportunity to see a fantastic market in La Boquería. After drooling over various products in there, we headed for a wander round the Gothic quarter, before sniffing out a delicious lunch at Bar Del Pla on the recommendation of our friends Sean & Fi. A menu of squid ink croquettes, ‘octopus bombs’, foie gras on crispy beef and a couple of drinks at the marble bar was an affordable and indeed delicious lunch. Thanks Faun! Walking off the lunch back towards Grácia we decided to go via the Arc de Triomf and up the wide avenues.
The hustle and bustle of La Ramblas is soon forgotten as you hit Grácia, where we decided to celebrate our anniversary by getting our second of course of ink for the day, this time in tattoos at the 19:28 parlour (can’t recommend it enough, Dani was a legend!). Not matching ones…no names, just a little something each to remember the trip by.
We quickly fell in love with the city (well, Grácia mainly.) The area is so very chilled, and we both agreed that we could live there, in fact agreeing that when we make our millions, we will buy a little flat there. Maybe even the one we rented off Sergio. The narrow streets, beautiful buildings draped in Catalan flags, boutique shops, little markets, pretty plazas, fantastic eateries and friendly little bars make for a top get away to the city without the tourist masses bothering you. Sadly five days sped past and it was time to leave. Not far though; we headed back to Barcelona airport to meet some buddies and hit our palatial villa on the outskirts of the city…