A purely chronological description of my time in Barcelona hardly seems appropriate. It wasn’t the first time I had visited, and we certainly didn’t run from place to place trying to discover all its secrets. This visit to Barcelona was the perfect visit! We were just there.
Timewise, we spent three nights and two and a half days in the city. A good portion of the first day (resulting in the half) was getting there! We left Lanzarote early, but the flight was nearly 4 hours long and there was an additional hour time change. So for a 10:30am departure, we didn’t arrive in Barcelona until after 3. On the suggestion of our concierge, we took the Aerobus, a bus from the airport to Plaza Catalunya that cost less than 6 euros and dropped us off less than a block from our hotel. (Recommended! It leaves every 5 minutes.)Our hotel for this stay was “Room Mate Pau” and it was, literally, steps from Plaza Catalunya on Carrer Fontanella. I was looking for an interesting hotel for this portion of our stay. Location was super important – I wanted to be near La Rambla, absolutely my favorite place in Barcelona. This hotel turned out to be perfectly located – we walked and walked – everything felt like it was right in our neighborhood. My second criteria was a hotel with some personality, but it had to be highly recommended. Room Mate is apparently a new hotel chain, and Room Mate Pau has only been opened for two months. People were raving! I had to see it and experience it for myself.
It turned out to be more than adequate. It isn’t in the category of the Melia hotels we stayed in in Lanzarote and London, but it filled my criteria with plenty to spare. Our room was … interesting. Though the size of a pretty standard hotel room, its individual parts were organized in a novel way. There was no bath “room” per se. There was a water “closet” – literally a closet with a toilet, and another water closet – this one a shower. The sink was located in a cupboard in the main room, deftly hidden behind french doors with a huge photograph of hands on them! (There was a huge photograph of pears in the shower…) The desk/task area was an open-sided cube arranged at the foot of the bed: table in the center, seats to either side, lighting above. Ingenious really and quite comfortable. Efficient, too. The bed was large and comfortable – plenty of pillows. No decoration in the room. The TV screen was the only thing on the walls. No curtains – just white shades. Does it sound stark? It was really quite welcoming.
The hotel seemed to be managed entirely by teenagers! Though all very young, they were helpful and friendly. We had breakfast included in our room rate, and it was an expanded continental, cold buffet. I am not a breakfast eater, but I enjoyed a slice of brie with a fresh pear each day, with my coffee and juice. The breakfast room has a big ouside terrace (which I realized on this trip is synonymous with “the smoking area”) with a living wall! We examined and even photographed its construction. I want one!
Our goals for these two days in Barcelona? 1) To walk around, and 2) to eat well. We accomplished both. The first evening we walked from our hotel to the Born area and found a Bib Gourmand (a Michelin rating for great food at an exceptional value) at Senyor Parrellada. We got an lousy table right in the front of the restaurant (next to the table where the employees on break ate). It was only lousy for its location because the service and the food ware exceptional. We also enjoyed a bottle of Riaxs Baixas.
The first full day we spent walking. First we walked to Guadí’s Sagrada Familia. Thinking to visit it, we laughed that off! The line was around two corners! We contented ourselves with wandering around the outside, admiring the work done since our last visit 10 years ago: We couldn’t really determine what that might have been. Perhaps I will compare the photos of then and now. We did, however, go online (ticketmaster.es) and book tickets for an interior visit the following day (for Tuesday). This visit to the basilica is something you MUST do. It was my first visit to the interior and it is fantastic! It’s fantastic both in the fantasy sense and in the “really great” sense. It takes your breath away!
I am a huge fan of Gothic architecture. Especially for major churches. Gaudí reinterprets Gothic into something so amazing, it is spell-binding. The gorgeous vaulted ceiling of the traditional Gothic is here – but so new and exciting. Gaudí’s genius is evident in every aspect of the building. How he envisioned a building that would not be completed until (scheduled now for ) 100 years after his death, and knew to create an iconography that later artists, who he would never meet, could interpret and yet harmonize into his ideal, is truely the mark of genius in my mind. I might not go so far as to pray at his tomb or recommend him for sainthood (then again I am not Catholic either), but I can certainly pay homage to an artist with his incredible vision.
Barcelona is the city of Gaudí. Just walking along the boulevards, you see buildings he created. We did not get enough by vsiting the Sagrada Familia, so on that first day we also walked up to Parc Guell. Parc Guell has special memories for me – memories of 10 years ago visiting with Oscar and Gerry. In my imperfect memory, seen through rose tinted glasses of motherhood, I see Parc Guell as being a place that the four of us really enjoyed. So naturally I walked through the park thinking of my darling little boys, now grown into men. I especially sought out the emblematic lizard at the entrance since Gerry bought several of them to bring back as gifts.
The park is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. It was full of tourists. Since we were all enjoying it together – it hardly mattered. The views of Barcelona were inspiring, the natural forms and mosaics of broken tiles imaginative, and all in all, the feeling was fun and lighthearted. Perfectly mirroring my mood and the beautiful weather!
Monday evening we tried another Bib Gourmand called Avalon. Catalan specialties – rice with sepia and buttifarra was a memorable first course. Really filling!
We managed to find our way into two really local places for lunch, both times eating the “menu” – first, second and dessert with bread and a nice cold beer!
Tuesday, after the visit to the inside of La Sagrada Familia and after our local lunch we just wandered down toward the port and the ambolled up La Rambla. Only two living statues, and hundreds of places to sit and eat – that I really did not remember from 10 years ago! Still, there were a few flower vendors and a few bird vendors. I bought myself a bird house as a souvenir.
Our final dinner was supposed to be at Casa Calvet. Unfortunately when we got there, the restaurant was completely booked for dinner. (The place looked beautiful!) A quick Google consult directed us to another place nearby called Gelonch. We had the place to ourselves (Barca was playing a rival.) and enjoyed an unusual meal of many small plates. Notable was the nitro carrot and orange…carrot and orange foam frozen with liquid nitrogen. Was it food? I am not sure! We also had razor clams with a vinaigrette of tomato, mango and petit pan squash, squid cut into tagliatelle with deconstructed pesto, cochinillo, beet gnocchi with cod tripe and veal brains, and a bunch of other weird but delicious plates. We also sipped an entire bottle of Prades white wine. Best of all – our waiter performed the perfect imitation (?) of a gourmet restaurant waiter complete with hand signals to describe the tastes of our dishes. A night to remember!
The entire visit to Barcelona is something I hope to remember for a long time. The city is so exciting, so vibrant. It was great fun just to be there and be part of it. I can’t wait to go back again!