Time to move on to our next adventure! Step One: drop rental car off at the Valencia-Estacio Del Nord train station (the easiest rental car drop off ever! Hardest thing was finding out how to get into the parking lot). Step Two: board the 13:50 train to Barcelona-Sants.
The train trip was comfortable and the views of the coast as we approached Barcelona were beautiful in a back yard kind of way – always interesting to see the parts of a city that is relegated to the train lines. At some points, looking strait down from the window, all you could see was water! Kind of disconcerting.
Once we arrived in Barcelona, I called the AirBnB apartment manager to arrange a meet up. The cab we took was not delayed by traffic, so we arrived on time. The apartment was fine – very Ikea in design – and, as we learned after one day, in an excellent location.
We were able to walk almost everywhere we wanted to go. Sometimes we discovered things were closer than we expected, usually when we planned how to get back home.
The day of our arrival was used to familiarize ourselves with the neighborhood – particularly to find places to have dinner. We walked nearby streets, then picked ChiCha Limena, just around the corner from our apartment. Very good.
Our first full day was indeed “full”. We exited the apartment, turned left, went 2 blocks and turned left again. We were actually looking for the metro near Placa de Tetua. We didn’t see the entrance, so we headed across the park and found a cafe to have coffee and a sweet for breakfast.
When we left the cafe, we continued toward the Arc de Triomf, which we could see further down the street. This arch was built in 1888 as an entrance to the Universal Exhibition that was held in a large park a little way on.
It was raining, so we decided to continue on to the Gothic Quarter, where Pat was determined to find the yarn store there and a food market. This is part of the old town and has many narrow streets and old buildings. It is a fun place to wander.
Our first stop was All You Knit Is Love (yarn shop). As the sign in the entrance suggested, Pat bought some yarn as another souvenir.
Then we headed to Barcelona’s first covered market, the Santa Caterina Market. Although smaller than many we have been to, it didn’t disappoint us – only upon leaving were we disappointed by the rain falling heavily.
As the rain finally slowed down, we walked some of the other streets around the market and the yarn store.
We then started back toward the apartment, but when we got close, we decided to walk along Passeig de Sant Jean. This was fun, and we passed a side street that led to the Sagrada Familia, but since we were going there in a couple of days for a tour, Pat didn’t want to go to that area. Fortunately, she changed her mind!
When we got to the Sagrada, there was a festival in progress on one of the adjoining streets. We’re not sure what it was for, but it was colorful and the music was good.
It was now time to find somewhere to eat. We went up a pedestrian-only street and found Sala 1625, a small restaurant with an out-door seating area. The place was not cheap, but the food was good and watching people was fun. We had Anchos, Dados de Brie, Spadellino, Buschetta Porcini, and Cerveza.
When we finished dinner, we could hear fireworks going off nearby. Of course we let our ears find the source. It was a nearby parade where there were lots of sparklers, firecrackers, bands and costumes – the reason for this parade, which lasted for more than half an hour, we never found out. Along with many other observers, we enjoyed it.
After the parade, we headed back to the apartment, passing the Sagrada Familia one more time.
The next morning, Sunday, we decided to go to the beach! We were told that if the sun is out, everybody heads to the beach. Our path took us back down through the Arc de Triomf. In the park through the Arc, there was a bicycle exhibition in progress with displays and test areas – there were certainly lots of bikes to choose from.
From here it was on to the beach, where Pat collected sea glass (as usual).
The day ended with a meal at El Viti Taberna, near our AirBnB.
Monday started with coffee and pastry at a cafe near the Sagrada Familia where we were to meet for a group tour (Sagrada Familia: Fast Track Guided Tour with Towers Access) at 9 A.M.. We had been looking forward to this tour since we first planned a stop in Barcelona. The tour included individual headsets so everyone could easily hear the guide as she explained what we were seeing. Below are only a few of the many photos we took while on the tour – this place was so photogenic. I can’t imagine anyone coming here without a camera to record the beauty.
After the tour, we were free to roam the grounds as we pleased. One of the fascinating areas is the museum below the building. This included photos of the early building, photos of Gaudi at work in his studio, and current models used during the continuing construction. Don’t miss this area. It gave us a great sense for the artistry behind this beautiful building.
Having Gaudi now firmly in our minds, we left the Sagrada Familia and walked to Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera (“the stone quarry”), another famous Gaudi masterpiece. We made a big mistake by not arranging to do a tour of this facility (the photos on their website are spectacular). We now have another good reason to return to Barcelona.
Nearby, there was another residence designed by Gaudi, Casa Batlló. This building is in on a block often referred to as “Block of Discord” because of a building designed by 2 other architects – Casa Lleó Morera and Casa Amatller.
Next on the agenda was the market, La Boqueria. However, as we walked toward it, taking side alleys and streets, we ran into Beerlinale, a brew pub. As we often do, we stopped in to try a local beer. What fun we had talking to other patrons. We met 2 young ladies from the U.S.A, both of them teachers, who were traveling on their spring break. We also met Luís Bekaert, from Belgium, living in Barcelona and representing Brouwerij Alvinne (makers of Flemish sour ales and oak-aged beers).
We finally made it to the La Boqueria market, where we also had tastings at several of the stalls.
Our final full day was Tuesday. We finally decided to use the Metro to travel across Barcelona to the Montjuïc area. The Metro is easy to use and relatively cheap. We boarded at the Tetuan stop (a couple of blocks from our apartment) and exited at Placa de Espanya. The subway cars (at least, the ones we were on) were modern and clean. So were the 2 stations we were in.
When we exited the Metro, the first thing we saw was Arenas de Barcelona, a shopping mall converted from a bullring. Other than the exterior, there was nothing to see of the old ring – it is now just a fancy shopping mall. Not worth the time to go in.
When we left this mall, we walked across the Placa de Espanya and up the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina to the Font Màgica de Montjuïc (“Magic Fountain”). From the fountain, the could see the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, which we walked to, but didn’t go in – wish we had. From here we climbed the stairs and escalators to the top of the hill, where the Palau Nacional (National Palace), now an art museum. Not visiting the museum, we circled around it and were off to the Olympic Stadium.
We continued past the stadium, wanting to make it to the Montjuïc Castle. Not to enter, but to see the views from nearby. On clear days, we were told you can see all the way to Majorca – it wasn’t one of those days.
We did a lot of walking in the heat (one of the days it didn’t rain), but finally took a bus to Plaça de Catalunya so we could walk down La Rambla and go back to the La Boqueria market.
After revisiting the market, we decided to find a couple of the brew pubs we were told about while visiting Beerlinale, the previous afternoon. I’m happy to report we found a couple of them and a few we were not looking for. The brew pubs included Garage Beer Company, BierCaB and NaparBCN. We had dinner at BierCaB and were heading home, along the street our apartment was on, and found NaparBCN. When we went in we were certainly surprised (see last photo below).
Walked back to the apartment to pack and get ready to leave tomorrow for Andorra. Barcelona has been interesting and fun – so glad we stopped here. Pat and I have decided we like Barcelona better than Paris and want to return since there is so much still to explore.
We both just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest book “Origin”. This book has given us another reason to revisit Barcelona and Gaudi’s artistry.