A madman, Gothic tour, copious amounts of vino...BCN is amazing!
Why on earth has it taken me thirty years to get to Spain! I bloody love the Spanish! They're fantastic. They're in absolutely no rush to do anything and are so sublimely chilled out. They love their food and wine (and certainly are keen to give healthy portions!). What's not to love?!
A few things have surprised me about the Spanish though. I was nowhere near as blown away by the fashion as I thought I would be. I was expecting to be really wowed by how the people dress, like I was when I was in Paris and Italy eleven years ago (ugh, has it really been that long?!). I figured that being that my favourite cheap clothing store, Zara, hails from Espana, everyone would be quite trendy! Having said that, I have seen some women who are are dressed impeccably. However, they are few and far between. Generally, people have been dressed far more casual than I had expected. Clearly, the idea of the streets of BCN being a mini Zara runway was a huge misconception on my part! I guess I will have to wait until I get to France and Italy for my lessons in fashion...
I arrived very late in Barcelona on the Wednesday evening so there was not much else to do except go to bed. The following day, I arose in just enough time to catch the free breakfast (thank you Casa Gracia) and hit the streets. I met a lovely Indian man at breakfast that morning who was telling me about this food exhibition that he was going to that day. Apparently it was one of the largest in the world and is seriously impressive (direct quote "if you are a foodie at all, you will enjoy"). I most definitely consider myself to be a foodie! He gave me his extra pass for the event, he was an "exhibitor" of meats and I also had the same title, whatever that means. He encouraged me to go, and I told him I would try and make it that afternoon and that I would stop by and say hi. He laughed.
It was a dreary day in Barcelona so definitely a day to be spending indoors...and I couldn't think of a better place than a food exhibition! Folks, I have never seen anything more amazing in all my life. To start, everything is free (well, if you have a nifty pass like I did). There were six enormous halls where you can go to taste test basically any kind of food and wine that you can think of (and almost like showbags, take home anything you want too!). HEAVEN! And now I know why he laughed. There was no way I would ever find him. In the 3.5hours that I spent at Alimentaria, I was barely through 3 of the halls. And it took me a good 1.5hours to realise there was more as had spent the entire time in that hall. There was that much to see and taste! Incredible. I am so thankful for that man, shamefully, I never caught his name other than he was from Asam in India. It was the perfect rainy weather activity. I went to bed very full, and happy that evening.
The following morning, I finally made the Gothic walking tour. There were two of the "free" walking tours on offer here in the city (I use "free"| in quotations as the guides operate on tips), a Gothic and a Gaudi tour. I was interested in doing both, so thought I'd start with the Gothic, and have a chance to see some of the Roman ruins and also spend some time weaving in and out of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. My guide, Angela, a local, was absolutley fantastic. She was so knowledgable and fun (and also provided some fantastic tips of where to eat and drink on the cheap).
After the tour, I set off solo for a feed. The tour had lasted about 2.5hrs and I had certainly worked up an appetite. I found an amazing tapas restuarant and enjoyed some delicious sangria and tapas. The Spanish really like to feed you! The potion sizes of the tapas were astoundingly large! Post my mid arvo nosh, in true Spanish fashion, I headed back to the hostel for a siesta. Touring really does wear you out! I had about an hours kip and then hit the streets again. This time, I wandered around Passeig de Gracia, the street my hostel was on, and probably the richest neighbourhood in Barcelona. All my favourite high end stores were there (haha, not that I could ever afford to clothe myself there! Certainly not now, anyway!). But it was nice to pretend and do some window shopping!
Later than evening, I dined on some more tapas in a fabulous little square in my neighbourhood. This was my first ordering fail of my time in Spain. Just because something is cheap and is under the "tapas" part of the menu, does not mean it is small! I wasn't particularly hungry, so just wanted a quick snack before I went to bed. I had ordered some wine and couldn't decide between the hummous and pita or the chips cheese & guacamole. They were 5 Euro a piece, so I figured, what the hay! I'll order both. Huge mistake! the portions were absolutely enormous and the entire restaurant proceeded to look at me in disbelief, as if I was going to devour the whole lot! So embarrassing! I was hard pressed to even eat a quarter and then left feeling extremely full!
The weather was absolutely spectacular the following day! Accordingly, it was most certainly a beach day. Upon the advice of the concierge at the Hostel, I took the yellow line down to Barceloneta and hit the beach. It certainly wans't warm enough for a dip, well not according to me, but for the first time since I have been here, it was not jacket weather! The beach in Barcelona isn't that impressive. In general, city beaches never are. It is a man made beach that was created around the time of the Olympics, and pair that with the fact that I am Australian (and have spent a long time in Bermuda), so have exceptionally high standards! I was later advised that there is a lovely beach just out of city. Pity I didn't find that out until my last day!
After the beach, I made my way to Mt. Tibidabo for a view of Barcelona. The view was amazing (and so was the beer that I had while enjoying it!). Following my viewing, I made my way back to the beach and to a restuarant that I had spied during my walk through Barceonleta, that served some amazing seafood paella (something that Barcelona is famous for). It was amazing! And again, enormous.
My fourth, and final day, I took the Gaudi tour, which was phenomenal and very interesting. Gaudi was most certainly a mad man! And like many famous artists, a genius at that! Our guide, Conan, a bloke from Belfast that has been living in Barcelona for the past 7 years was probably one of the best guides that I have ever had! Very knowledgeable and full of some very interesting stories (also giving some excellent advice of where to eat and drink...like the munchero shop that has the 1E sandwiches and pints of beers on Sundays...and it was a Sunday! WIN!!!).
Post the Gaudi tour, I attempted to go to the museums (they were free on Sundays), but paired wiht the fact that my back was killing me, and the lines were obscenely long, I didn't have the will power to endure it. I ended up getting back to my hostel at about 5pm and taking the first bus I could out of Barcelona, headed to Tarragona.
I absolutely adored Barcelona and am looking forward to one day going back. Such a fabulous city! Very picturesque and so much to do! I had a very action packed four days here and still feel like there was so much more I could have done! Definitely a great excuse to go back...
I hope this finds you well, wherever you are!
Alimentaria. The outside of the most amazing food exhibition that I have ever seen in my entire life! Talk about striking it lucky with my pick of the breakfast tables!
The first hall that I visited. This is just one side. There were SIX MORE!!!! Insanity!
Placa Reial. Stunning.
Somewhere along the Gothic Tour...another reason why I shouldn't take so long to upload! Can't remember!
Santa Maria Del Mar
Inside Santa Maria Del Mar
Barceloneta beach! The import the sand too from Africa!
The promenade at Barceloneta. The positives about a city beach is that it is lined with great cafes and restaurants. Perfect spot for some people watching.
La Rambla (famous street in BCN). I think I managed to walk up and down that street about one hundred times! I wish I had a pedometre on in BCN, I clocked up some serious miles.
Spain is full of amazing markets like this incredible seafood market! Yummmmmm.
And the meat! I have never eaten so much meat in all my life as I had in Spain. I don't know how vegetarians would survive. It seems everything revolves around a meat dish...not that I'm complaining! Of course Jamon was the preference. The Spanish love their ham!
Half way up Mt. Tibidabo enjoying a beer. I later found out that the view from Park Guell is admittedly better. Oh well! A tip for anyone who plans a trip to BCN in the near future. Pack a picnic, some vino (of course) and enjoy! Send me a photo too haha
One of Gaudi's famous statues on top of his building, Palau Guell.
Sagrada Familia in all her glory. By far Gaudi's most impressive pieces. Still being worked on and sadly, I don't think it will ever be finished in my life time. I don't think the Spanish government would be in any rush either. At 20E a pop for a ticket (I think), and millions of visitors a year, its far too much of a revenue earner! Regardless, it is still an incredible building.