For this year, I had three New Year resolutions. The most important one? To travel more! I used to travel quite regularly and loved it. But in the last two years, I somehow stopped. I’m lucky enough to be in Europe ““ which means I’m quite close to A LOT of different countries and we also have quite a bunch of cheap airlines. So it really shouldn’t be impossible to get away every now and then ““ even on my not-too-big budget. To start off my (hopefully) travel-rich year, I went to Barcelona for a week. What a city!
As I said, Europe is quite rich in cheap airlines. If you’re lucky and keep an eye on the prices, you can get really good deals. So when I saw some pretty cheap tickets, I took my friends, who’d just moved to Barcelona, up on their invitation and booked.
I had never been to Spain before and didn’t actually prepare myself that much, which actually is a little unusual for me. I got my Lonely Planet guide (I like how they cover all the basics, but don’t follow them religiously), packed my bag and took off. I left Denmark behind in a snow storm and landed in a wonderful Spain in spring. The first thing that really excited me? The palm trees. Proper big palm trees. Palm trees mean warmth. Living in Scandinavia lets you get excited about things like that.
The first evening was spent hanging out with my friends, having tapas and red wine, and planning for the next day. I decided to spend my first morning just walking around and looking at the city. There was a walk of Modernista architecture in my book and I just sort of loosely followed it. Whenever I saw something interesting, I walked towards it. I walked along big streets with big and impressive architecture and small streets with cute corners and laundry out for drying. Every now and then I got a little lost ““ but actually, that didn’t bother me at all. To me it seemed that Barcelona is absolutely perfect for walking and enjoying all the amazing views.
I crisscrossed the city, met with my friends at their lunch break, and took off again. The first famous building I visited was GaudÃ’s La Pedrera. The ticket is â‚¬10 (and I learned pretty fast that this is the minimum price for the important spots). After you’re in, you have the choice of either taking the elevator or the stairs. Seeing the long queue, I just skipped the elevator. You start out in the attic of the building. The structure is absolutely amazing. GaudÃ used a special kind of arches in his structures (some people are reminded of huge ribcages, actually). Besides admiring the beauty of the attic, you can also have a look at the exhibition about GaudÃ’s work. Through the attic you have access to the rooftop terrace.
And what a terrace! You walk up and down and around. Every now and then you’ll have to watch out for your head while walking through archways. And the view over the city is just amazing! The chimneys are part of what made this house famous. Some call them knights, others warriors, and I also read that they were the inspiration for the helmets of the soldiers in Star Wars.
The last part is an apartment, which is furnished and decorated in the style of the early 20th century. Absolutely beautiful!
After that I had a little time to kill before meeting up with my friend. GaudÃ’s Casa BatllÃ³ was closed for an event so I had a quick look at Casa Amatller right next to it. Cadafalch built in a very intriguing way ““ many details look like they should be in a medieval castle! The building is being renovated, so I only could see the entrance area and a little shop (and in the Doctor’s words: “Aw, a little shop! I like a little shop!”). After that I went to look at Palau Del BarÃ³ Quadras, which houses Casa Asia, a cultural centre. It’s also by Cadafalch, which is quite obvious in the details. You don’t have to pay to get in, just walk inside and enjoy the beautiful rooms. When I was there, there also was an amazing photo exhibition about Afghanistan. All in all, I managed to cover quite a big chunk of L’Eixample, which is what this neighborhood is called.
After that I met with my friend and we walked a little bit through GrÃ¡cia, the part north-west of L’Eixample. GrÃ¡cia consists of many tiny streets with shops, markets, and squares everywhere. My friend took me to La Nena, an adorable little cafÃ©, where you can borrow games and have the most amazing hot chocolate and churros. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out and planning my adventures for the next day.
Next on my list was obviously La Sagrada FamÃlia, an absolutely stunning piece of architecture. I have seen many amazing churches and cathedrals in Europe ““ but nothing quite like this. The entrance was â‚¬12.50 and even though I couldn’t go up in the towers (they were closed due to strong winds), I think it was worth it. The architecture basically forces you to look up. The construction has now been going on for over 100 years ““ and nobody really knows when everything will be finished.
The next stop was Casa BatllÃ³ (â‚¬18.50), an amazing town house by GaudÃ. As is typical with GaudÃ, there’s not a single straight line in the house, because, he argued, there are no straight lines in nature either! All the shapes, forms and colors, and many of them reminiscent of sea life. From the outside, you can detect traces of a dragon, on the roof, for example. It must have been a fantastic place to live!
For lunch we chose Cerveseria Catalana. We ordered (well, my friends did ““ I couldn’t decide!) a big selection of tapas and then a big selection of dessert (crema Catalana is just the BEST) and, fed and happy, continued with our days. While my friends went back to work, I went to the Museu Picasso. The most fascinating part of the museum, for me at least, were all the early sketches. It was very interesting to see how he started as a child and how he reached his unique style. The only downside was that the museum was filled up with school classes ““ my patience was tested quite a bit.
I spent the next morning on the beach. The sun was beautiful and it was warm, so I found a nice spot, sat down, and wrote a bunch of postcards. It was pure bliss! After lunch I went to see Park GÃ¼ell, another of GaudÃ’s masterpieces. I got a little lost on the way there, because I didn’t take the easiest way (pro-tip: just take the way from the metro station Lesseps ““ MUCH easier than from Vallcarca). I didn’t enter the park through the main entrance, but close to the platform on at the top, TurÃ³ del Calvari. The view over Barcelona is beautiful! From there I walked slowly through the park towards the main entrance. It’s beautiful and gorgeous and weird all at the same time! On my way back towards the city, I decided not to take the metro, but to take a walk through GrÃ¡cia. I only had seen it in the evening so far, so I enjoyed wandering around in the small streets and squares.
After all this walking in Barcelona, it seemed to be a good time to take a break. So my friends, their family and I went to have CalÃ§ots. They are a sort of green onion that are grilled on open fire, served on a terracotta roof tile and then, after the blackened layer is peeled away, eaten with a sauce made of almonds, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, vinegar and oil. This might not sound like much, but it is very, very delicious. The entire thing is such a mess that you get plastic gloves and a bib before you get started. After the calÃ§ots, you get meat or fish (eating in Spain could be a little challenging for vegetarians) and then dessert. Also part of the meal is roasted bread, rubbed with garlic, tomato and olive oil. If you are in Barcelona around early spring, you really should try it!
The next day, my friends (and the parents of one of them) and I went to Montserrat, the holy mountain of the Catalans. We drove most of the way up, but it’s also possible to hike. My friend’s mum and I lit a candle (I’m not Catholic, but I really like the idea of this and always do it, when I get the chance) and after that we went into the church. We caught the last minutes of the church service and then heard the famous children’s choir sing. It was very foggy, so we couldn’t really enjoy the view (apparently, on very clear days one can even see Mallorca), but the fog also gave the place a special atmosphere!
And then? A surprise. After my friend’s parents had dropped us of at home, they called to let me know that I could go and see the BarÃ§a game with them that night. My friend had apparently told them that I’m a football fan ““ and because the entire family has season tickets, they just organized another one that I could borrow for the night. My friend obviously also went, but he said that he’d be sitting somewhere else. So, his parents picked me up, we went to have coffee with their friends and some family and then we went to the stadium, Camp Nou. It’s huge. I have never seen ANYTHING like it. There’s space for 100,000 people. And the atmosphere was really great. Here in Denmark people can get quite aggressive. But I didn’t notice things like that at Camp Nou and my friend told me that he’s been at the games since he was a little child and nothing really happens. If you can go to a game while you’re in Barcelona, go! Seriously! Go!
The last day of my holiday, I spent walking around Barri GÃ³tic and La Rambla. Again I saw another side of the city and again I just enjoyed the beauty of it. Walking around in Barcelona and not really caring where I was going was one of the most relaxing things I have done for a long time (I only did this during the day ““ it’s a little different in the evening/night!).
The next day, I had to go back home. After a week in spring I landed again in freezing temperatures and quite a bit of snow on the ground. But fortunately I also already have the next trip to look forward to: I’ll be in Amsterdam at the end of April!
Anyways, what about you? Have you been to Barcelona? What were your favorite places?