This time we headed for Barcelona in search of some sunshine and excitement!!
David definitely led the charge as he’s mooted going there many times and we’ve always ended out somewhere else - but not this time. So am really excited to see what we may find. We had a few suggestions from friends and colleagues but sadly learnt more about what the locals really love on our flight back!!!! Sometimes thats the way, its who you meet or know that can impact a trip but a good reminder to go in search of local information whenever possible. You can never get too many suggestions.
Arriving in Barcelona was rather fun as our Airbnb host, Alex, had suggested we catch the local bus 46 to Place de Espanya and then a two minute walk to his appartment. Really pretty simple as it was only about 8pm and the locals are all out and about, shops trading and action everywhere. But without the necessary little map that he’d forgotten to send us, we managed to get very familiar with the area and even better make some friends at the local tyre shop. Everybody had warned us of pick pockets and tourist crime that is rife in Barcelona so you can picture the two of us, quite lost, but Dave constantly suggesting that although we have our wheelie bags in tow, we should be walking briskly as if we know where we are going, not stopping every likely suspect on the corner - because you never know who they may be!!!! HaHa!
Our host Alex was a delight, well he was on that first night but I think thats because he had been drinking vodka all afternoon and was very chatty. He did insist that his English is much better when he’s drunk. He soon informed us that he loves living on his own, could never live with anybody else, absolutely detests children, but does have plenty of friends who he likes to party with and then theres the ones he called 'f…..g friends'!!!!! A little too much information on our first night!! It was an interesting ten days as he was an incredibly heavy smoker and did love to party, a late night cook and often just crashed in the living room.
But it was a great apartment for our ten day stay, fresh markets and bakeries nearby, great bar at the end of the road, two minutes walk from the Place d’Espanya and it didn’t break the bank.
Barcelona is a diverse city, the second largest in Spain with just over one and a half million people in the city. On one hand has a decidly Mediterranean feel to it with its two miles of fabulous beaches providing that lovely the easy going relaxed environment and big port bringing in the cruise ships. Yet it's also a modern, dynamic, vibrant city and immensely proud of its Catalonian heritage, traditions, culture and history. All the young ones we met speak Catalan, Spanish and English keen to talk about Catalonia
Known for its Art Nouveau and Gothic architecture, Barcelona is most well known of all the Antoni Gaudi masterpieces. Whether you love or hate them they really are worth a look, totally unique and mind boggling, especially the Sagrada Familia. Construction started on this in 1882 with Gaudi at the helm and after his death and a break during the Spanish Civil War, it found itself under the watchful eye of a Christchurch born, New Zealand architect Mark Burry. Advances in technology have not only allowed him to live on the other side of the world, in Melbourne, using a Rolls Royce video link to join the onsite workshops but also use of things like 3D digital ‘printing’ of plaster moulds and robots involved in construction. His ability to interpret Gaudi’s ideas, among everything else, has meant that finally this masterpiece should be completed by 2026. Some of his other masterpieces don’t stand out as much as they are slap bang in the middle of this busy city but on a closer look they are exquisite.
The views of the shorefront, port and city from Montjuic Castle were stunning. A great walk up through the gardens, better than taking the cable car and funicular train - the picnic at the top tastes so much better. Although I’m still not sure David sees it that way.
Right outside our front door was the CaixaForum a modern industrial building that was converted from an old beer/hops factory. Now full with modern art exhibitions, lecture rooms and various other cultural activities.
Then further up the hill was the vast Olympic Stadium built for the 1992 Olympics Games. Millions was spent on this vast complex as with all Olympic cities, but this did prove to be turning point in the for Barcelona as a modern day tourist destination. The magnificent National Art Museum looks down over the the Placa d’Espanya and the Magic Fountain with its music, light and water show. As luck would have it January is time to do their maintenance so no shows. But during the day we were entertained by a great busker and at night the view was worth it, with or without the fountain.
The city has a feeling of being vast and spread out with these generous tree lined avenues, which I can’t get enough of, yet its surprisingly compact and so easy to walk everywhere. Its made up of neighbourhoods which makes it fascinating to wander through, not least the old Medieval centre which is the heart of the city with it's Gothic and Jewish quarters, La Ribera, El Raval, and of course the well known tourist trap La Rambla.
The coffee and wine flowed, inexpensively and at any time of the day or night. So we soon got into the Spanish way - no hurry with anything. Lots of long coffees stops, , sedate late lunches, early drinks and tapas, evening walks, late nights, or just delicious hot chocolates as we wandered by day or night. We walked from one side of the city to the other - the beach to Tibidabo mountain with its amusement park. A great way to finish off our stay in this architecturally and culturally rich, fascinating, vibrant, fun city.