Allegra and I got to Barcelona late in the afternoon on Friday. Barcelona was basically at the top of my “Places to visit in Europe while living in London” list, so I was so excited. And it didn’t disappoint.
First off – it’s ridiculously easy to get around in Barcelona. The two terminals at the airport get you to the train station (just follow the signs for “Tren”, accompanied by the convenient image of a train), which has a train leaving every half hour. We bought the T-10 tickets, which give you ten rides on basically any form of transportation in the area (you need two to get to most places – the train and then the metro). The metro is easy to navigate, and trains come every 2-3 minutes. And there’s a countdown board so precise it has the seconds on it. Puts the London tube notification system to shame.
We stayed at Hotel Peninsular
, which Allegra saw recommended in the NY Times. It’s a former convent, which goes nicely with my plan to only stay in places in Europe that used to be run by nuns (like where I live now). It is just of La Rambla, the major pedestrian mall, in El Rival, the slightly seedy part of town. I have to say that I’ve never been offered drugs more often in my life, and the last time I saw that many prostitutes out in the open was in Prague in the 90s. The man who was at reception most of the time was very nice, and humored me in my attempts to speak Spanish, even teaching me new phrases. Actually, I managed to get along pretty well using Spanish, and was even approached a few times with questions in Spanish from tourists – some of whom I was actually able to help. I was a little worried, given how little my Italian came in handy when I was lost with Will on our way from the airport to the villa in Tuscany (man, I’ve gone to some cool places. So lucky).
We wandered La Rambla a bit and found a chocolate place that was in our guides. Granja Viader
is quite old, and serves a very potent suis
. After a break back at the hotel, we went out for dinner (around 10ish, I believe – everything seems later and slower in Barcelona) and had some amazing pan con tomate. And cava, the champagne of Spain. Yum.
Saturday was a gorgeous day. Sunny, warm, perfect tank top and jeans weather. After a quick stop back at Granja Viader (one of us lost a phone at one point), we made our way to Palau Guell
, a famous mansion designed by Gaudi. Unfortunately neither guidebook mentioned it’s been under renovation for five years, so only the basement was viewable. Bummer. But that’s okay – it made us even more excited for …
La Sagrada Familia
. It’s ridiculous. And amazing. It’s been under construction since the early 1900s, and isn’t expected to be finished until 2020 or 2040. People are working on it non-stop. The models and plans were destroyed by anarchists in the 1930s, but they’ve restored them and have been working furiously to finish it. Coming out of the metro, turning around and seeing it was one of those moments I don’t imagine forgetting any time soon. We took the audio tour, and even went up in an elevator into one of the towers. It’s just beyond comprehension how cool it is.
We decided to continue on with the Modernisme
theme, and took a walking tour of some of the more notable buildings in Barri Gotica. We made our way to La Pedrera
for a tour, and got there in the late afternoon, which made for some excellent views of the city from the roof.
After ambling back down another major pedestrian area, we stopped for sangria and tapas and witnessed and excellent yelling match between a patron and a server that we believe involved being charged 15 euro for a beer that was a large but was supposed to be a small and anyway how can you charge 15 euros for a beer? It was awesome. The night consisted of getting a little turned around on the way to dinner, but ultimately ending up at a cute Mexican restaurant that had excellent food and yummy sangria.