Barcelona ( Bar They Lo Nah) Beautiful Catalunya. Home to the world famous Paella, a Medieval Gothic City, Pablo Picasso, and the forever being built; La Sagrada Familia. I spent almost 2 weeks in Barcelona and I loved every minute of it.
After a 6 hour train ride from San Sebástian: “Basque”ing in the Glory, we started to pull into Barcelona Sants Train Station. I’ve just completed Cathedral of the Sea, a Historical Novel book I was reading about Barcelona during the Spanish Inquisition. Full of the emotions from reading the book, and having just pulled up in Barcelona, I was ready to see this city.
A quick taxi ride, and I was dropped off in the El Borne area. My apartment was somewhere along the maze in this tiny barrio . I finally came across my apartment, rang the buzzer, and my kind hose came down to welcome me. Another walk up, I was just too exhausted to lift my bags up 4 flights of stairs. The apartment was gorgeous. 2 floors all to myself. There was a bottle of wine to welcome me , and my hose after showing me my apartment, took me to the roof top to show me the city. From here you can see up Passeig De Gracia, Gotic, and the ocean down in Barcelonetta. Then she explained that this church right next to us is a famous church called Basilica de Santa Maria Del Mar. What? I started to cry. This is what the book I was reading was all about. This Tiny church was the focal point. She comforted me in a strange way, wondering I’m sure, what the hell is wrong with this person. I explained to her my book, and she smiled and said, perfect book for Barcelona. Our apartment tour was done, I unpacked for my nearly 2 week stay, and headed out to see the Basilica De Santa Maria Del Mar. You can check out my amazing listing on Airbnb Here:
First stop: Basilica De Santa Maria Del Mar. Yes, I rushed to this little church adjacent to my building. I walked through a small door next to its absolutely grand doors, and was in quick silence . Silence of mind, soul and spirit. I’m here, this is what I read about. The blood , sweat and tears of the Jewish, and common class people who built this church . OMG and there’s the Madonna. I was so filled with love … So Happy.
Starving, I walked around the Born , which is filled with touristic shops, world wide designers, local designers, and little cafe’s and restaurants. I kept walking until I came across a small restaurant with outdoor seating and looked like it was filled with locals. I ordered the Black Ink Seafood Paella ( made with squid ink) a glass of wine, and just sat there and enjoyed my surroundings . You could smell the salt in the air by the not really nearby beach at Barcelonetta. Oh There’s Dolce and Gabbana . I’m home. hahaha
After lunch, I decided to take a quick subway ride to Placa de Cataluna which is a sort of center point for touristic Barcelona. To the north you have Passeig De Gracia , a wide and beautiful boulevard filled with prime shopping , Gaudi architecture, and a fabulous fountain. To the South is La Rambla with its full on Tourist shops , and entertainers. The subway was very interesting. I read about how petty crime is on the rise in Barcelona. Purse snatching and pickpocketing being the main culprits. I was prepared and alert, and so was everyone else. When you’re in the station, there are videos showing you exactly how people pickpocket you. I was floored. It must really be bad. I took the nearest metro station by the Born called Jaume I ( pronounced in Catalan: Zjau mah Primera) and in 4 minutes I was at Place De Cataluna.
I was going to try to take a hop on hop off bus to get an up close view of the city. Unfortunately the bus was way more than I wanted to spend. And having 13 more days here, I figure I could do it all on my own. I slowly walked back to my apartment to get ready to meet a very dear friend of mine for later, and I thought a nice siesta would be in order. I was so excited to see my friend Juan Ignacio. I first met him in Medellin Colombia and we became fast friends. Now he had moved to Spain and is working as a Nurse in Barcelona. On my way back to the apartment, I took my time walking through a tiny bit of Barri Gotic. I know that I will give this Place my undivided attention in a full day tour soon.
The moon is full, the night air is lovely, and I’m dressed and ready to meet my dear friend whom I haven’t seen in years. I waited for him in a square close to my apartment where little restaurants and pubs were already a buzz. It’s friday night and the feelings right. A nice black VW convertible pulls up beside me and it’s Juan. After a lot of greeting and hugging, we were on our way to some fabulous restaurant in some fabulous hotel that I can’t remember. Dinner was amazing, and Juan ordered for us in the most perfect Catalan Accent. After dinner we retired to the roof top of the hotel for spectacular views of the city at night, and lovely cocktails.
After dinner and a cocktail, we drove up Passeig De Gracia passing by their illuminated fountain as well as Botello house designed by the most famous Catalan architect of all time, Antonio Gaudi, on our way to Eixemple area ( pronounced Eye Shamplah) which is the center for the LGBT community with bars, clubs, hotels, and roof top lounges. We met up with his friends and some swanky art deco restaurant and enjoyed a few more cocktails.
Today is Saturday, and I can’t wait to step out the door. Despite going out to a little late the night before, I was up super early as the excitement and possibilities awaiting me in the city. I stepped out and had a cafe and toast at a nearby bakery which was amazing. Today is a huge day for me. Today, I am traveling to see La Sagrada Familia.
I hopped on the metro at Jaume I en route to La Sagrada Familia. It was already 9:30 am and the line was long. I patiently waited, as it seemed to be moving quite fast. As I got close to the entrance, I could not believe my eyes. It was the same two girls I met on my journey to San Sebastian, and the same ones I road with from SS to Barcelona on the train. They had just gotten out and was in awe with what they saw. I was so happy to see them, that a picture was in demand.
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA:
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Catalan pronunciation: [səˈɣɾaðə fəˈmiɫiə]; English: Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop.
Construction of Sagrada Família commenced in 1882 and Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.
Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona: over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona’s cathedral, over Gaudí’s design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí’s death disregarded his design, and the 2007 proposal to build an underground tunnel of Spain’s high-speed raillink to France which could disturb its stability. Describing Sagrada Família, art critic Rainer Zerbst said, “It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art” and Paul Goldbergercalled it, “The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.” courtesy of wikipedia
I entered the main doors of the Church, which was already so over powering with its absolutely ornate details, and stepped inside to the wonderment of this most amazing church. This church is for the people, because when you step inside, you immediately understand it all. I mean, I totally related and understood everything I was seeing. This nautical journey into Christendom was spectacular. And I couldn’t hold back my tears. Guard is such a genius . His use of space, and connecting it to the spirit is unfathomabley beautiful. After about an hour of just soaking in every detail, I decided to go up one of the finished tours for a bird’s eye view of the city. I decided to go up the Nativity Tour, which as you guessed it, is dedicated to the Nativity , or the birth of Christ. Up, up and up you go in the lift. Once you exit, you are presented with the most beautiful and picturesque view of Barcelona. The statues, carvings, and reptilian personification, makes one feel as if they stepped through the looking-glass and are now in Wonderland. It was most amazing. As you climb down the narrow swirl of stairs you are treated to a different view through an eye of yet another reptilian creature as if to say you are that gecko on the wall , listening and watching the world around you move. In the basement, where you will end up , you can see how the church was thought of, and being built. With the massive amount of quality put into this beautiful church, one cannot fathom why it is not done, when it seems so. Soon, very soon I hope, I will return to see the church in all its finished glory.
The surrounding area by La Sagrada Famila is so pretty and filled with touristic restaurants and what nots. I decided to walk up a few blocks away to hit a local joint. After a light long lunch of paella and a bottle of wine . Yes a bottle, I staggered down the boulevards, trying to follow my map to make my way back down to city center. Barcelona is easy to traverse and understand ( well sort of ) because Like Hawaii, it is Mountains and Ocean. So all one has to do is go down. I kept walking and came across this amazing Arch. Barcelona’s very one Arc De Triomf, which was built in 1888 for the world fair. It was such a beautiful and sunny day, that my stroll was just magnificent.
The next day I met up with another friend whom I met in Minneapolis, Jaume. He had recently moved back to his home town Barcelona to teach at the University. We met up for some coffee and he made a quick phone call to his child hood friend who is also a professor, but a professor in History. Jaume told him I read the historical novel Cathedral by the Sea, and he was excited to take me on a journey in the maze like streets of Barri Gotic . We entered Barri Gotic, which alone could be considered its own city, and traversed its labyrinth like streets to meet up with his friend. His friend explained to me every little detail about Gotic. Where the Spanish Inquisition Started, where the Jews lived, how the people lived, etc etc. I was so well informed, I felt like a walking history paper.
The Gothic Quarter (Catalan: Barri Gòtic, IPA: [ˈbari ˈɣɔtik], Spanish: Barrio Gótico) is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. It stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere. It is a part of Ciutat Vella district.
Despite several changes undergone in the 19th and early 20th century, many of the buildings date from Medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Remains of the squared Roman Wall can be seen around Tapineria and Sots-Tinent Navarro to the north, Avinguda de la Catedral and Plaça Nova to the west and Carrer de la Palla to the south. El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, is located within this area too.
The Barri Gòtic retains a labyrinthine street plan, with many small streets opening out into squares. Most of the quarter is closed to regular traffic although open to service vehicles and taxis. courtesy of Wikipedia
You can spend days in Barri Gotic ( and I did return several times ) and still not see it all. It was just so fascinating to see a Medieval city still being inhabited and with very little change to the architecture. In certain areas, there are a plethora of shops and designer stores, but my favorite was this small coffee shop that only the locals know, where you have coffee with whiskey ( Carajillo). We sat, had some Carajillo and some small tapas. I proceeded to leave my phone on the table, to which they quickly handed it back to me. They said that within a split second my phone will be gone as it has happened to them. Ok Sealed purse, and tucked away phone. Lesson learned. I had a really lovely day with Jaume and His friend. They were both so kind, and such a wealth of knowledge, and plus it helps that Jaume is cute 🙂 Wonderful day in Bari Gottic.
After I said my goodbyes, I walked around a bit more until I found a book store . I just had to walk in since I had so much success in San Sebastian with my score of a book. I ended up buying another book by the same author called : The Hand of Fatima… Another historical novel all based in Andalusia and having already visited Seville: Al Andalus and the Flamenco Capital of the World I was so touched by the story of the Morisco during the Christian and Moorish wars. It was phenomenal.
With book in hand, I headed back to my little barrio , sat at an outdoor cafe infant of the Cathedral Santa Maria and began to read. All of a sudden there were bells ringing and what seemed like hundreds of people piling out of the church in front of the grand doors. And then like some romantic medieval novel, the Bride and Groom appeared in the mists of rose petals. I was gagged.
Today I decided to walk around the Rambla, and down by the port and Barceloneta Beach. I caught the metro again to Placa de Cataluna and made my way down La Rambla. So many hidden gems on this massive tourist street, including a gorgeous Opera Theater. Barceloneta beach was teaming with activity. There was a huge sand castle being built with chairs surrounding it. I wondered what was going on, and I got my answer to that a few days later. It was a lovely long day walking around and enjoying the sights.
The next day I received a phone call from Juan who said, let’s go visit the nearby city of Sitges ( about half hour away) .
Sitges is a coastal town in Spain’s Catalonia region, southwest of Barcelona. Backed by the mountainous Parc Natural del Garraf, it’s known for its Mediterranean beaches and seafront promenade lined with grand mansions. The compact old town and surrounding streets are filled with shops, restaurants and many gay bars and nightclubs. The Maricel Museum and Cau Ferrat Museum showcase Catalan and other Spanish art. courtesy of wikipedia.
Sites is also a gay vacation spot. A coastal town, there are beautiful beach side cafes and fabulous resort style shops. There is an older part to the city with sweeping views of the beautiful ocean. We dined and hung out and had cocktails around there. It was a lovely and beautiful day to be in Sitges.
Today is a day all about Gaudi for me. This architectural Genius is by far one of my al time favorites. His creations speak to me , and tantalized my eyes. He’s pure joy and love and I’m so happy I’m able to experience so much of his work. I started my morning heading to his house high up in the valley called Parc Guell ( pronounced Park Gway) . It was difficult trying to figure out how to get there. A metro ride, a bus ride, and lots of walking later, I came upon the entrance to his house and Park. It is like Disneyland on a psychedelic trip. So amazing , so beautiful, unfortunately also so crowded.
I then made my way sort of back to city center by following the Street/ Avenue Diagonal. Just as the name implies, it is a boulevard / street that runs diagonal through the city. I stopped here and there at the many little Jeugos ( gaming casinos) and enjoyed loosing and winning a little here and there.
I finally made it back closer towards town on beautiful Passeig De Gracia. That drop dead gorgeous boulevard with every high-end store you can think of. On the boulevard, is another one of Gaudi’s marvelous works of Art, Casa Batilo. A building which encompasses Gaudi’s Modernism ( Catalan Art Nevou) and La Pedrera. After enjoying these monumental structures , I popped into Loewe for some unsurprising beauty in design. Their scarves and bags are just breathtaking, and so is the completely emerald and diamond jeweled cheetahs on display in their basement. After soaking up all types of art, I relaxed at one of the many out-door cafes on Passeig De Gracia and enjoyed a spectacular lunch and people watching.
Today is museum day for me again. And I started off first with some breakfast at the same gorgeous bakery in the Born. Next to the bakery is the famous Picasso Museum and home, where he lived while in Barcelona. Although a great place to visit, and see all the different styles and periods for him, I was under whelmed. I know , I know …. how can you say that. I don’t know Picasso just didn’t speak to me.
I took a metro trip up to Montjuic (pronounced Mount Jew eek) the mountain of the Jews. The history of this mountain is appalling, and the Jews were slave workers breaking down the mountain and carrying the hundreds of pounds of stone on their backs down to the city to build Barcelona’s medieval city. I saved the castle for another day. Today, I came up here to visit and see the Joan Miro Foundation Museum. Mira , another architect, and artist, had such a beautiful collection and the views from the foundation was amazing. Coffee and a pastry was in demand if I wanted to continue absorbing all this beautiful art.
As I made my way down towards the city, I passed by another absolutely stunning museum: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. As you can see from my picture, the use of space with the Ionic style columns, cascading water feather, and stately capital looking structure that houses the works of art, is beautiful. Although I didn’t go in, I was over it already) I did manage to snap some gorgeous pictures of the building.
The days just seem to be flying me by. The city is becoming common ground for me a this point, so I thought it be fitting to escape the city and head up to the Spear shaped mountains of Montserrat.
Montserrat: Located about an hour by train from Barcelona, Montserrat ( jagged mountain peaks) is a beautiful and heavenly place to visit. The Benedictine Abbey which houses the Black Madonna is high up on the mountain peaks. In order to reach the Abbey, you need to take a funicular or train, to the top. Once at the top, it is break taking. The view of the mountain range, the city below and of the Abbey can make one feel as if you’re in Heaven.
I reached Montserrat after an hour train ride at about 10 am. There were a lot of people on the train going the same way, so I had to stand pretty much the whole entire hour. It’s ok, my legs were so strong by this point . Instead of rushing to the funicular I took my time and enjoyed a lovely cigarette. Montserrat is about 4000 feet above sea level. When at the top I decided to have some coffee and adjust to the altitude.
The Church opened up finally and everyone was in line for the mass, and in a separate line to see the Madonna. Even in church people will try their best to cut in line. Not today Russian , not Today…hahahahaha. Don’t mess with a Hawaiian Girl… Even in Church 🙂
It was freezing up on top of the mountain, and after about 15 minutes standing in line outside, I finally was granted access to the first check point of the church . The church was grand and yet still cold , even with all the people inside. about 15 minutes later, a heavenly sound started to echo throughout the church. The Boys choir began to sing. My God their voices are so angelic. You cannot help but weep to the beautiful sound.
Another 10 minutes later, and I was face to face with the beautiful Black Madonna , said to have been carved in Jerusalem and found in the 700’s. She is carrying the infant Jesus as well as the world in each hand. She is surrounded by beautifully ornate gold adornment. It was well worth the wait. I ended up doing some awesome shopping at the local store in the Abbey . Oil, Jams and Jelly, Teas and amazing honey are just a few of the delights available for purchase. My time in Monserrat was so needed. I felt refreshed, full of spirit, and at peace. For those who are more adventurous than I am, there are lovely walking trails all over to reach different summit spots up the mountain. When in Barcelona, Please do yourself a favor and visit Montserrat and the Abbey.
Today is a new day, and today I’ll go and spend more time at the Port and Beach at Barceloneta, but after I check out a huge festival and local swap meet up in the Parallel area. Later a walk to Pla de Plau by the ocean, to visit a museum of Iberian history.
Later that afternoon I was met by Juan who took me up the mountain to see Mont Tibidabo, its cathedral, and mini amusement park above the city.
It’s Saturday he says, and what are we going to do? I don’t know? Go out? hahahaha. So I went back to my apartment after our visit to Tibidabo gathered my things, and headed to his apartment in the more modern area of Barcelona close to the beach. He cooked a spectacular dinner, we got ready and about midnight we headed out for a night of debauchery… Ok not debauchery but lots of fun.
We started off at a small bar with really cool music videos. The alcohol hit me and I was dancing my ass off. Later he said, ok time to go. Ok time for home. NO , time to conintue , the After bar is open now and we should try to get there before 2:30 am. Ah what? lol
Ok so we ended up at this Saturday promotion called Saturgays. It is held in this old replica of a pueblo town. At 30 euros to enter if you’re a girl…. we proceed to traverse through this old pueblo town, until we came across a large basilica looking church. Well Tourist attraction by day, Gay party at night. and OMG was it packed. It was so much fun. We danced the night away. At around 6;30 am, the club closed, and as dawn was breaking, we headed out to yet another Club. The After After Bar. OMG 8:30 rolled around and I was ready to head home. We needed to sleep. And so we did. We ended a spectacular night with a bang and greeted the new day in Style.
A few hours of sleep and we were up on this beautiful Sunday day. We headed to Barceloneta Beach to tan topless, have some cocktails, and enjoy soaking up the sun. Summer is near, and everyone was out in full force. The rest of the day we spent relaxing followed by an early dinner around 7 pm across town, and I headed home for some much needed R&R.
Because I didn’t get enough of the beach, I decided to stroll around Barceloneta again today and to make a quick visit to the Gorgeous W Hotel and Barcelona’s Vegas Style Casino. This pretty much ate up my whole day. What was so wonderful however, is, remember that Sand Castle they were building? Well it was a setting for Opera on the Beach . How ingenious is that?
My trip is nearing its end and I can definitely feel it. So to combat my sadness I did what any respectable girl would do. I shopped till i dropped. The End. Oh I did forget to mention that I ended up getting food poisoning from a Vegetarian restaurant in my barrio. AT A VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT. Well I sure felt skinny the next day.
Today is my last full day and night in this wonderful city. It has been an amazing ride. I’ve learned so much about their history, truly enjoyed the city and all its splendor. Reconnected with a dear friend and met up with a friend from Minneapolis. Today I returned to Mont Juic to see the castle on top of the mountain. It was quite a hike from the metro stop. The view was beautiful, and so was the castle. After the castle I walked back down towards the city, very similar walk I did when I visited up here last. This time I stopped at the cute little restaurant. Los Gatos. The food was superb. The ambience magical. The time of day stupendous. Everything has come together beautifully and I couldn’t think of a better way to end my last full day in Barcelona.
I came back to the apartment, packed up all my things to be ready for tomorrow’s train ride back to Madrid: Royal Tapas and Royal Fun. Later that night I met up with Juan and his best friend and amazing men’s designer Edgar Carrascal. We had a lovely dinner and I was so sad to say goodbye. This definitely was the highlight of my trip to Spain: A tapas of beautiful people and landscapes.
Barcelona, you have been quite something. A Place I could never forget. A place that calls to me in the night… I will definitely be back.
You can read more about my trip through Spain here: Spain: A tapas of beautiful people and landscapes