Whew, I have noticed that these travel posts for February have been running easily over 1000 words; it’s just that there’s so much to pack in into one post, as so much had happened in each of my destinations! Perhaps you enjoy reading every word (or not- I won’t take offense), but in any case, we’re moving on!
After a five-hour ride from Toulouse, the bus arrived in the station close to noon. Tired and rather hungry, my first goal was to get lunch. I had researched beforehand restaurants that I was interested in trying, and came across one that reputably served delicious paella (compared with the many others that were tourist traps), and so I decided to head straight there.
The restaurant was located near the beach; it was also incredibly lovely weather that afternoon. I don’t tend to be an emotional person, but man…I felt a bit teary-eyed. From happiness, of course. Not only from the breathtaking views of the ocean, but also from the memories that it brought, of being back home in Los Angeles. Never did I realize how much I missed the beach, the sun, and all of the natural beauty of the sea. It was beautiful.
Had lunch along the promenade, ordering paella (of course) with vermouth. Frankly, the paella was overly salty, but I was hungry and so happy to be in warm, sunny weather that I didn’t mind. Flavors were good as well. 😛
After lunch, I walked towards the city center to get to my hostel, located near Las Ramblas, a grand pedestrian street known for its touristy vibe, with plenty of souvenir shops and tourist-trap restaurants. Passed by many churches and cathedrals before reaching Las Ramblas and my hostel, where I checked in and rested for a bit before heading out later that afternoon.
Walked along Las Ramblas, before deciding to head over to check out Montjuïc, a hill which has the grand Palau Nacional and the Font Màgica (“Magical Fountain”). Very picturesque views of the city as well. It was a long, 45-minute walk from the center, but eventually made my way over just when the sun was about to set. The Palau Nacional looked stunning, all gold from the sun’s rays. Unfortunately, the Font Màgica wasn’t being turned on during my stay in Barcelona (as it was under some repairs), but I can imagine that it must look beautiful, especially lit up at night:
Didn’t climb up to the top of the hill, as it was getting late. Walked all the way back to the hostel, stopping by the market for some food for the next few nights that I would be in Barcelona. Returned to the hostel, had a light dinner, showered, and basically turned in for the night.
Woke up early the following morning, as I wanted to make it to la Sagrada Familia when it first opened to purchase tickets and avoid the pack of tourists there (as it is one of the most visited sites in the world). Weather was actually cloudy, even drizzling that day, which was both a good and a bad thing: good in that there were less people visiting, bad in that one couldn’t access the top levels of the cathedral, which I wanted to do. It was disappointing, but still found la Sagrada Familia (which continues to be under construction) awe-inspiring, especially having had learned about Antoni Gaudi, the architect behind its construction, and his natural, geometric brilliance. Seriously, he was a genius.
Also learned that la Sagrada Familia is expected to be completed in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. That’s another decade from now, so it would be really cool to return then to see the finished product- that’s a date that I will keep! 😉
Afterwards, I walked over to Casa Battló, another masterpiece from Gaudi himself. Located on the big commercial street of Passeig de Gràcia, it is known as being part of the “Block of Discord” (Illa de la Discòrdia), the city block which contains four modernist houses that were designed during the early 20th century by famous Spanish architects (including Gaudi). I ended up visiting two of the other houses during my stay in Barcelona, but in any case, I went to see Casa Battló that day, paying the *rather expensive* entrance fee. But it was worth it, as it came with a cool visual-audio guide that took tourists to twenty different points of the narrow, but quirky-shaped house. Full of wavy-patterned walls, colorful stained-glass windows, and vivid statues, the Casa Battló was quite the experience. 🙂
Finished the visit around noon, then headed over to the Picasso Museum for the afternoon. Got a quick bite to eat along the way. Arrived at the museum around 13h00, and got in for free as a “student” under the age of 26 (works to my advantage!). Unfortunately, I could not take any photos inside, but it was nice seeing and admiring how incredibly diverse Picasso’s works are. Naturally, one thinks of him as being only a Cubist (with those weird, abstract-block paintings), but one forgets that before then, he was classically trained, with traditional oil portraits and whatnot. He was inspired by a plethora of different influences, and it is fascinating to see how they evolved his painting style over his life, from the classical to Impressionism to Cubism. Really, Picasso is quite awesome. 🙂
Left around 14h00, and went back to my hostel to relax, as I was pretty tired from walking all over the city that day. I also had plans to meet up with a Couchsurfer to hang out that evening, and so I needed some rest.
Went out a couple hours later, and went up with the Couchsurfer (let’s call her “Grace”) at a tapas bar at 19h00. I had never tried Spanish tapas before, and I have to say that it was quite the experience! First of all, the place at which we ate was a popular spot, already packed with people within twenty minutes of opening (we had arrived early, so we were able to get a spot at the counter to order). And second, the dishes were amazing. Had mussels, pork cheek, artichokes with cheese and caviar, and a salmon-honey-truffled toast, which was just divine. So smooth, and just melted in your mouth like that. *snaps
Afterwards, Grace and I decided to get some drinks, which ended up turning into a “mojito-tasting night,” as we discovered that we both shared a love for mojitos. Don’t worry: I didn’t get drunk that night, unlike that in Bordeaux. 😉
Decided to call it a night around 23h00, said goodbye to Grace and headed back to the hostel. The next day, I planned to visit Park Guëll (another brainchild of Gaudi, why am I not surprised?) 😉 The place is quite out there, a good one hour from the city center, and so I took the metro over, got off at the closest stop, and walked another 15-20 minutes over to the site. I had purchased a timed ticket for 10h00, and so I arrived there around that time.
Park Guëll was lovely, even with overcast skies that day. I especially wanted to see the famous serpentine bench on the main terrace, decorated with colorful mosaics that were basically leftover scraps from stained glass windows, I believe. Super glad that I got to see it, sit on it, and get a photo with it! 😀
Explored more of the monument part of the park, admiring awe-inspiring rock arches of the aqueducts, the colorfully-tiled lizard/dragon fountain near the main entrance, and the Austrian gardens, surprisingly green at this time of year.
Left Park Guëll, and took the metro back to the city center. Spent the afternoon visiting two of the other houses on Passeig de Gràcia: Casa Lleó Morera and Casa Amatller. Got a discount to see both of them, so might as well! I actually preferred the latter more, as the inside looked more beautiful with its furniture and interior design (not to say that the former wasn’t lovely, but just a personal preference!).
Also received a complementary hot chocolate at the chocolate shop inside Casa Amatller, which was fantastic! And the hot chocolate was amazing- if you haven’t tried Spanish hot chocolate, then you’re missing out. It’s so thick, it’s like eating ganache- and I ain’t complainin’! 😛
Went back to the hostel to rest, as I was actually planning to meet Grace again that night to attend a Couchsurfing language-exchange event at a bar. Met up with her at 19h30 near Las Ramblas to walk over together. Got some drinks at the bar, which was packed within thirty minutes. Tried bravas (fried potato wedges with mayonnaise and hot sauce on it- like the Spanish version of Belgian fries) for the first time- pretty tasty! Chatted with a trio of Spanish guys who were there to practice their English, as well as other guests in there.
Grace and I didn’t spend that long in the bar, as she had to go meet someone at 22h00 and I was heading out early the next morning for Madrid. Left around 21h20, and parted ways near my hostel (and her hotel). Nice that I was able to hang out with someone in Barcelona for two nights straight, as I would have otherwise been bored in the evening.
Overall, Barcelona did not disappoint me. This was actually my second time in the city, as I was there almost ten years ago. I was quite young back then, traveling with my family as well, and so I don’t remember a whole lot of what we did, aside from visiting la Sagrada Familia and eating paella.
As an adult now, I can say that my experiences in Barcelona are different than what they were as a teenager: more time to explore the city, more independence, and more opportunities to meet people and get drinks (as well as being legal to drink!). 😉 It was an enjoyable time, as I got to visit and re-visit great monuments, try amazing Spanish dishes, and meet new people (which definitely helped get over my shyness in public functions, for the moment).
More soon! Coming up: Madrid, Spain!
— The Finicky Cynic
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