Barcelona in June is good for a Düsseldorf girl – they actually have summer there. I did nothing but run around in all of the above for three days and two nights, relishing in the feel of bare knees and bare toes. It was Fabulous. Yes, with a capital F!
Three days doesn’t sound like a lot of time for a city like Barcelona, which has so much to offer, but we achieved a very satisfying combination of playing tourists and just bumming around. I have decided I am in love with the city. I love its warmth. I love its vibe. I love its heart. Barcelona is to Düsseldorf what San Diego is to Phoenix – the perfect weekend getaway for a change of scenery.
Our hotel in the heart of the Barri Gotic served as the ideal place from which to base our explorations. On our first afternoon we wandered aimlessly and happily toward Port Vell, soaking in the sun and the sights. We stopped for an afternoon snack in the shade of Plaça Reial before meeting a friend (and Barcelona local) to watch some German soccer in one of the bars near La Rambla (yes, there’s always soccer). Unfortunately neither Toby nor I are big fans of Spanish food (we’re too near-vegetarian and anti-fish for that), but the Tinto de Verano, a summer red wine specialty, goes down easily. We also got a taste of the Spanish lifestyle – the city and its people really come alive once the sun goes down.
The next day started off a little later than planned (also part of the Spanish lifestyle) with a visit to the Mercat off La Rambla. I love marketplaces even more than I love grocery stores – they’re so colorful and lively.
After a slice of fresh pizza and some freshly pressed fruit juice, we headed to Park Güell for our first taste of Gaudí architecture. Here’s a free tip – take the subway (a pleasant experience in Barcelona, regardless) to Vallcarca. From there you can ride a series of escalators up the hill of El Carmel, a sweat-saving plan for a hot summer day. While you don’t walk through the park’s main entrance, you are immediately rewarded with vistas of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea.
As we walked along the meandering paths, I couldn’t help but feel at home – it was probably the dirt between my toes and the park’s agaves and bougainvilleas. The Gran Plaça Circular, with its reputedly longest bench in the world, was the perfect place to take photos, people-watch, and soak in the splendor of the day. And, as the daughter of an architect, I appreciated Gaudí’s unique style and attention to detail, visible in the concrete forms of the Hall of a Hundred Columns and the many ceramic and glass mosaics.
I could have stayed if I hadn’t been so hungry. We spent the afternoon coffee housing and window shopping in the Barri Gotic, the towers of La Catedral sneaking in and out of the background as we curved our way through the jumbled, narrow streets. The sheer number of shoe stores we ran across, each with a unique and clever way of displaying their goods, tells me that the Spanish love their shoes. We even stumbled upon what must be ballerina heaven (yes, I bought a new pair in Barcelona).
We happened to be in Barcelona for the much-anticipated annual celebration of Sant Joan. We started the night off with a delicious dinner that renewed our faith in Spanish food – an appetizer of spinach sautéed in olive oil with raisins and pine nuts followed by vegetable paella. Then we headed out into the crowded streets to join the revelers. There was laughing, dancing, and firecrackers everywhere. I heard the party was still going when the sun came up.
But we had plans for our last day in Barcelona – a visit to the famous La Sagrada Família, another one of Gaudí’s works, still under construction since 1882. This place was awesome! From the outside it seems dirty and strange with its many brown-colored façades covered in sculptures, some more friendly than others. The inside is completely different – cool, crisp, and flooded with a grayish blue light, pierced by points of color from the many stained glass windows. The central nave is a forest of columns whose face changes with every few steps you take. I was truly mesmerized. It was a nice last impression to have of Barcelona.
I hope we return to Barcelona. The city is interesting, and the sunshine made my soul smile. I guess you can take the girl out of Arizona, but you just can’t take Arizona out of the girl!