From the moment I got back to London I had an overwhelming desire to pack my bags, turn around and go back to Barcelona permanently. I loved the place more than just about anywhere I have been so far. The weather, the people, the food, (I ate an obscene amount of jamon iberico) it was all so good.
The Mother and I were there for 3 full days as part of our annually occurring safari to a European city. The Mother had last been here in 1978, only 3 years after the death of Franco so needless to say things had changed quite a bit. Her memory was a little hazy due to the fact that on her previous trip they had turned their van’s water supply into a Cointreau supply instead.
I arrived after midnight and was a little anxious about being in the city alone as I had heard many warnings about being robbed here. I needn’t have worried, everyone is still out drinking and eating at 2am and our neighbourhood was very well lit. I had taken the blue Aerobus from the airport into Placa de Catalunya for a grand total of €5.90, from here I jumped into a cab for the last stretch. If you were to take a cab all the way from the airport you are looking at about €50.00 so unless there are a few of you the bus is the way to go.
Initially we were staying in the Poble Nou neighbourhood, which was more residential and less touristy than the Gothic Quarter where we stayed on our final night. I’m glad I got to see both areas and probably preferred Poble Nou for its less frenetic pace and proximity to the beach.
I’m always a big fan of a walking tour so we rolled up to the free New Europe tour the next day. It leaves from Placa de l’Angel by the Jaume I tube stop at 11 and 2 each day, just look for the person with the red umbrella. These guys run them all over Europe and I have always found them to be worthwhile. Technically they are free but I generally give about €10 – €15 as a tip as it’s 2 – 3 hours of entertainment that helps you get your bearings and think about the things you would like to go back and see more of. You can book all their tours ahead of time and if you use the code LEONBAR it should give you a discount on the paid for ones.
Catalonia/Barcelona has a long and fairly complicated history having been under the rule of so many different groups so it’s a good way to get to grips with all the detail.
We enjoyed ourselves so much we also booked onto the architecture tour and the tapas tour. The tapas tour was an economical way to get an overview of the tapas/pinchos scene and eat some good food (read: more jamon). I would say it was more like an evening warm up rather than your whole night out. We be-friended some American girls and carried on to other bars and restaurants long after the tour was over. Time flies by there and we found ourselves still drinking vino tinto at 2am.
The architecture tour focussed on the Modernist style made famous by Antoni Gaudi, who by all accounts was a bit of a reclusive nutter. I found this tour to be really valuable, it’s all well and good to walk by something and go ‘wow that’s nice’ but this gave you so much more insight into the architect’s life and how to pick out features/motifs that told the story of who had lived in the places we were marvelling at. This tour ended at about 5:30pm outside the Sagrada Familia, the building we are probably all most familiar with. We went to buy tickets to go inside but the entries are timed and we would have to wait an hour to get in – BOOK ONLINE before you go so you don’t get stuck waiting.
We had mostly taken cabs around the city as they are pretty cheap and we weren’t going far. If you intend to get the tube then buy the T10 ticket for €10, you get 10 trips and it can be used multiple times on one journey so your whole party can travel on the one ticket.
We also spent a day on the hop-on hop-off bus. This was pretty light on information compared to ones in other cities so it wasn’t the best activity of the trip. We had our final dinner in a very small bar called La Alcoba Azul in the Gothic Quarter. I had an amazing goat’s cheese salad and an unreasonable amount of jamon again. If you want to avoid some of the tourist traps that are more prevalent in that part of town then I would recommend this place, it’s very small and it has a mural of two space monkeys grooming each other so you know it’s good. It’s just a wee hole in the wall so keep your eyes peeled.
I would love to spend some more time in Barcelona in the future. I feel like I could happily cruise about eating, drinking and going to the beach for a few months, but then I guess I would be happy doing that almost anywhere…I have a proclivity for being beside the seaside.
Featured Image by: Alexandre Perotto