August 13, 2018
So the end of Summer was coming to a close. It had been over two months that I got to spend in Spain with Caoliang and it was time to go back to Texas. My flight was booked out of Barcelona and luckily we planned it where Caoliang would also have a couple days off before my departure. With this time off and departure flight from Barcelona, we saw it as a chance to see the city together, since I didn’t get the chance to when Caoliang was working there. So on August 13, we boarded a 9 am train from Alicante to Barcelona.
With not so many days there, we tried to fit in as much as we could in those two nights. Arriving at 2pm, we got ourselves to our hotel to put our things down. We stayed at the Principal B&B which was very cute and cozy! Being that it was a bed and breakfast, there were only 9 rooms in those whole place. I loved it that it was quiet and very comfortable. One of the things I loved the most was the big bed! (In Alicante, Caoliang and I were sleeping on two single sized beds that weren’t on the same level. Trying to have a cozy night’s sleep in Alicante was nearly impossible!) After resting a bit and freshening up, we headed out to see some of the city. Again, I was so thankful the sun didn’t go down until late in Spain!
Barcelona is known for its art and famous architecture. One of the famous people in Barcelona, is Antoni Gaudi. He is an architect from Catalonia and one of the best known practitioners of Catalan Modernism. Most of his pieces are in Barcelona. We first headed to Casa Vicens Gaudi, the first house he ever designed.
“A UNESCO World Heritage side, this first home by the genius behind Modernisme is the embryo of a universal style. However, before it came experimentation, and that is why Casa Vicens is sundry and modern: In it, Catalan, Islamic, Japanese and English inspirations and techniques come together.”
Stockbroker Manuel Vicens i Montaner hired a 31-year-old Gaudi to design his summer home. Like the excerpt mentioned, in this home, there were many different influences to Gaudi’s designs. To me, the house was so colorful and whimsical. It was almost like a house you would see in a fictional story book. I couldn’t believe this was something that was designed in the late 1800s! The current structure is actually half of the original house and half of an extension. The extension part is painted all white and represented more like a museum while Gaudi’s designed half is left in its original form. I could only imagine what it was like to live in such a fun looking house! The cost to get in was 8 euros a person and we stayed for about an hour.
Afterwards, we walked over to Casa Mila. This is the last private residence Gaudi designed in the early 1900s. Going into all of these cool places is more expensive than you may think. So at Casa Mila we just enjoyed the architecture from the outside. It was really different than any building you would see on the streets of Barcelona, or anywhere! The edges were rounded and curved and there weren’t many hard edges.
Another building we visited after that, was Casa Batllo. This one was also designed by Gaudi and his assistants in the early 1900s. This was has a few local nicknames like “dragon back” or “house of bones.” I really wanted to go into this one but with such a long queue and an entrance fee of 28 euros, we had to pass. But even from the outside, you could see how unique it was from its neighboring buildings.
Just walking around Barcelona was rather nice. It was so different from the two smaller, beach cities we were at all summer. Our walk then led us to Mercado de la Boqueria. Unfortunately, most of the market shops were closed but we at least got a snack of some fresh juice, for one euro, and a small basket of mixed sausage slices for three euro.
Anyone that has been to Barcelona has been to La Rambla. La Rambla is a very busy street filled with shops, tourists, and pick-pocketers! Again, I think I have said this before, when a place is known for thievery, I don’t like to stay in it very long. With my eyes turned on even more than usual, we check out La Rambla just for the sake of seeing what it looks and feels like. Not very unique, to me, just a place with a bunch of shops and trees covering the street. Good to see, but definitely not sticking around.
Once we walked south on La Rambla, it put us in the Gothic Quarter. Here was a ramen shop Caoliang really wanted to revisit. When we first got there it was still closed so it gave us a chance to walk around the neighborhood. I definitely liked the Gothic Quarter just because of the small streets and more unique shops.
It is kind of funny we don’t eat Spanish food for every meal when in Spain, but I guess we just miss other foods, mostly Japanese, so much! The ramen was good and the shop was really cute. Half day in Barcelona, check! With full tummies and tired feet, we headed back to the B&B to get some rest for our full day the next morning.
August 14, 2018
With this being our only full day, we had to be a little selective about what we saw. I originally wanted to go to the Park Guell. After reading so many reviews and things about having to purchase a ticket for the “main” interests of the park, we figured it might be better to spend our time elsewhere being that we didn’t have a ticket and the ones available weren’t at convenient times for us. So instead, we started our day by visiting the infamous Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia is a large, unfinished Roman Catholic church designed by Gaudi.
This structure is iconic to Barcelona, drawing in thousands of visitors every season. For this very reason, the day we arrived, the tickets were sold out. Darnit. Oh well. We walked around the church from the outside trying to take all of its greatness in. I thought it was so whimsical, like Gaudi’s first house, with its curved edges and even colorful peaks!
With all this sightseeing and being in Spain, we had to make a stop for paella lunch! A friend had recommended a spot near the church that turned out to be pretty good even though near a very touristy attraction. After a delicious lunch, we then headed to the Arco de Triunfo. The walk over was pretty scenic. Caoliang even felt familiar in some spots. Our time at the arche was, unique to say the least.
So remember how I said theivery is a big this in Barcelona? Well the park in front of the arche has many tourists and locals. But because this is such a huge tourist attraction, many thieves take the chance to get you when you are distracted by taking a photo. While we were hanging out here, we too took some photos. Once we decided to leave, a man in regular clothes approached us, flashed his police badge and told us (in very broken English) that he is a cop and that he saw someone try to get into our bag! What?! At first I was hesitant to believe this man was a real cop. What if this was a set up in itself! After thirty minutes, we got everything sorted out. The man was a cop undercover and him and his partner were catching thieves in the area. Luckily, nothing was stolen but the officer told us that in Spain, even the attempt to steal is still a crime. So after some papers were signed, we were on our way. Yikes! That was unexpected! Thank goodness we still had all our belongings.
The afternoon took a little detour with that incident but luckily, nothing was taken and we were still in good spirits. We then took a stroll through El Born neighborhood and found ourselves enjoying a nice cup of coffee at Nomad. I’m sure you could guess by now that Caoliang and I enjoy our coffee. We aren’t coffee snobs by any means, but a good cup of joe is definitely needed now and then.
The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. We liked the neighborhood El Born so much we spent most of our afternoon there. We walked around to different boutiques, enjoying the small alley ways and beautiful architecture of this neighborhood. Our wanderings also took us into the Cathedral of Barcelona. Anytime I am in a European church, I am amazed at how big they are and how old they are! Could you imagine when these were being built?!
Barcelona is also a coastal city with a city beach that is often crowded with locals and tourists. We headed down there just to check it out but no swimming for us. Something else I really loved about Barcelona was all the cool street art! There were awesome stickers, paintings, and graffiti scattered through out the neighborhoods. Too cool.
August 15, 2018
I really enjoyed the time we got to have in such a unique city. All the special things about Barcelona, like its architecture and deep history, really makes me understand why so many people fall in love with this city. The next day was primarily for traveling. Caoliang and I went separate ways as I headed to the airport and him to the train station.
One more city to add to our list!! I’m so thankful that we got the chance to spend this time together. Now only a couple more days and then off to Canada!