Fish and fruit, Gaudi, and great Spanish bars…plus lots and lots of walking! That’s a quick portrait of my full Barcelona day.
I wanted to make the most of my only entire day in the city, so I started off early, wandering through the labyrinth of streets where market owners were just opening their doors and early-morning street cleaners washing the night’s dirt from the cobblestones. The massive museum that tops a park-covered hill close to the city’s large Plaza Espanya was my destination. It’s a grand park, spreading over acres and acres with countless hidden staircases and fountains and museums tucked away in its shade. I enjoyed breakfast on a bench there, overlooking the entire (smoggy) city.
Before getting there though, I made an impromptu stop at the huge covered market right by my hostel, along the busy and touristy La Rambla. This quickly became my favourite place in the city. The market is beyond packed with the most brightly coloured fruits, packed meat stands, and overflowing sweet shops I’ve seen. The produce is almost a work of art: obscure fruits piled in perfect pyramids or cascading down beautiful displays. And right next door there will be meat stand, where skinned rabbits or entire sheep’s heads are sitting with their eyeballs still staring up at you. The women butchers here were fascinating, their blonde hair done nicely and pearls around their necks, they happily chopped meat in their bloody aprons and silk scarves. Then there’s the seafood stands with crawling crawdads, chocolate booths that would put Willy Wonka to shame, and random restaurant carts interspersed through it all. My favourite one was the vegetarian restaurant sprouting the slogan “organic is orgasmic!” Although how anyone has an appetite with a pile of cows tongue or bloody liver sitting at a stand just feet away is beyond me.
After the market, museum and park, a meandering walk in the hot Spanish sun took me along the piers to Barcelona’s main beach area. There, nice restaurants set tables out on a boardwalk so you can enjoy the sand and sun and a sweet glass of sangria. Lined with palm trees and sculptures and sailboats nicely docked, the beach is clean and picturesque and very busy. I met up with my friends Megan and Josh there, who were also visiting on break from our London school.
Already having walked around half of the city, this is where the real exploring began. We mapped out our own little tour of Gaudi’s great architectural sites and managed to find them all…plus lots in between! His Sagrada Familia (unfortunately under a lot of renovation) is really interesting. Parts of it have normal, fixed architectural elements, and then the rest of it just seems to melt into a fantastical and abstract world. The only was we could think to describe it is a mixture of Hansel and Gretel and hard drugs. Quite often the word “goo” crossed my mind when looking at his more abstract works. Along our tour we found Barcelona’s Champs-Elysees equivalent, where every building is interesting and beautiful (we dubbed one “the flan tower”), and eventually ended up right back at my hostel.
“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.” ~Antonio Gaudi
By that time my little red sneaks had circumnavigated all of Barcelona (at least once)! A break for dinner, and then we just had to experience some of the nightlife for ourselves (red shoes still going strong). We found a neat cafe that turns bar at night. Actually, here in Barcelona everything is a bar and cafe at all hours, so I easily got an espresso with Bailey’s, the same drink my new friend at the bar gets there every morning before heading to work. The bartenders, a funky trio of characters from Italy, Germany and Romania, became our friends quickly. One was so intent on making white russians that he just ended up giving them away to us. They even directed us to their favourite nighttime spots, so we hopped from one neat venue to the next. Despite the late hour, the small cobblestone streets were busy and warm, and everywhere we went the people were incredibly friendly (the contrast with what I’m used to really made me realise how true it is that people keep their guards up and heads down in London). Although in the case of 6 of my hostel roommates, a little less socialising would’ve been welcome. They stayed up loudly talking and laughing all around my bed until 4 am both nights. How they managed to get up just 3 hours later I don’t know. But once they were up there was no more sleeping with the din of their multiple, loud alarms and louder voices.
After a nice relaxing market and cafe and sunny park-filled morning, I found myself travelling yet again–this time home to London. I miss the Spanish sun, bright colours, and friendly people there. But, it feels good to kick off my tired walking shoes and settle back in at home, especially with the promise of a good night’s sleep in my own quiet room. I have a Sunday blissfully free of plans, and then back to classes on Monday morning. I can’t believe I’m already halfway done with the semester! Europe has already stolen my heart.
p.s. Check out my flikr page for all the pictures from midterm break!