europe 2012: barcelona
Ok, three weeks later, I’m finally getting my pictures up from the second half of my trip. Better late than never!
Barcelona was a total highlight of my trip. My 3 days there were pretty much 100% spontaneous, due to pretty much zero advanced planning. But I seemed to luck out every step of the way, beginning with where I stayed. At the last second, I decided to forego a hotel, and instead booked a flat in the Barri Gotic (Gothic neighborhood) with a couple from Air B&B. And I already can’t wait to go back and visit them!
Mark and Sandra were so cool, and such amazing hosts. I admittedly chose them because their profile said that they love to sit down and chat over a glass of wine with their guests. And we not only talked for hours about everything from politics to art to scooters to cooking and so much more…but Sandra also took me out for some yummy tapas and drinks. They were so much fun! The only bummer was that they had to leave after the first night for their own holiday in Ireland.
But Sandra left me great recommendations for places to visit in the city, including a restaurant with the best paella I’ve ever had in my life. So here are some of the highlights!
I arrived in the afternoon and was looking forward to a bit of downtime before putting on my tourist hat. So Mark recommended I check out this tea room a few blocks away. They make a mean mango lassi.
Once Mark and Sandra were off work, we hung out at the flat chatting it up for a few hours. Then Sandra took me out for some tapas. (It seemed like every other restaurant you passed advertised tapas — they really are everywhere!!) If I remember correctly, we ordered chorizo (YUM), roasted peppers, cheese, and these crazy good cheesy-creamy-spiced potatoes. This also thus began my sangria tour of Barcelona.
The next day, I wandered all over town. One of the highlights was the enormous open-air market. (It goes on for rows and rows and rows.)
I know drinking international water is iffy. But I couldn’t resist the stands that were selling 20+ flavors of fresh fruit juices. They brought back fond memories of drinking refrescos each day when I lived in Costa Rica.
For the carnivores.
Fish are also served whole here — heads up. (Ha – literally!) ;)
One of my favorite things about the city was how much energy there was everywhere! Literally every block I walked was not only filled with people (who seemed remarkably happy), but there was usually some sort of music or entertainment happening. This night, the medical students were out singing Christmas carols in a small alley. They even threw in an accented rendition of Jingle Bells for the finale. :)
Unfortunately, my cold was in full force the second day I was in Barcelona. So I decided to take it easy that evening, and just go out for some comfort food. Apparently the latest food craze to hit the city (a few years late, Mark noted) is Vietnamese food. So I happily found some pho. With sangria. When in Spain… :)
Literally everywhere I turned, there was some stunning architecture to behold. Saw this beautiful church while walking back home.
The square outside of the flat, decorated with some super-sized Christmas ornaments.
From concerts, to demonstrations, to carolers, there was always something entertaining happening on the square.
The view looking down one of the streets off of the square.
The third day I finally decided to be a tourist — or at least, take the tourist bus which was the easiest transportation between places I wanted to see. Thankfully the weather was nice, so I sat up on top with my earbuds listening to the narrator talk about the city.
Again, the amazing architecture was neverending. Gaudi left a pretty incredible legacy here.
Coming up on La Sagrada Familia. It’s still under construction — somewhat of a rarity with large cathedrals in Europe!
Made it in!
Can’t even describe the scope of this place. Pure grandeur from every angle.
Loved the entry doors.
My friends were talking in England about what it’s like to step into a place that just feels holy, and that was completely my experience here. I couldn’t help but just stand in awe, feeling at once humbled and comforted by the presence of the Lord in that place. So moving.
Looking towards the altar.
Looking towards the back of the cathedral.
I can stare at stained glass for hours. So beautiful.
ENORMOUS organ!!! Wished I could have heard that baby played with the acoustics in there.
And then if the inside weren’t magnificent enough, we take a step outside.
So incredible. If you ever visit, be sure to carve out a good amount of time to take the full tour of the cathedral. I can’t wait to go back and see what more they have accomplished in another decade or so.
After the cathedral, I decided to hop over to another Gaudi creation – Park Güell.
Such a fun place to spend the afternoon!
You can see Gaudi’s touches…
View of the city.
I love his lines.
So many great things to explore. I feel like everyone can become a kid again here.
In keeping with my obsession with the sky in Europe, one of my favorite things about Barcelona was taking evening walks along the piers.
See what I mean?
My final evening there, I decided to take Sandra’s recommendation to try paella at a restaurant along the sea called El Rey De La Gamba. I had the kindest, most hilarious waiter, who could tell that I was a bit of a foodie. As a treat, he brought me out some “bacon” to go with my (surprisingly large!) pitcher of sangria. That seriously could have been a meal in itself for me. The sangria was stunning, and a whole plate of bacon to myself?!? I had to force myself to save room…
…because THIS was next. A huge, beautiful, glorious pan of paella. (Did you see my cover photo on this post?)
My waiter showed me how it’s done.
And…after a few hours of sitting there, eating, talking, eating, drinking, and eating some more, I triumphantly made my way through about half of the pan. Seriously, people, best paella EVER.
Afterwards, they also insisted that I try a hazelnut (I taught them an English word!) liqueur. Perfection.
That meal easily ranks up there as one of my favorites in my lifetime. You must, must visit this restaurant if you go to Barcelona. The waiters were amazing, the view of the pier in the background was perfect, and the food…well…I think half of my pictures in this post were of the meal. You get the idea. GO!
There were even happy fish lights on the street outside. :)
Until next time, Barcelona…