Hidey ho, everyone!
Sorry it took so long to get here, and I know y’all have been waiting, so drumroll please!
HOW DID YOU GET HERE? We took a train from Valencia, which took about 3.5 hours.
WHERE DID YOU STAY? From Barcelona-Sants (the main train station), we took a taxi to get to the neighborhood where we were staying called Barri Gotic. We used Airbnb again and did not regret it. I highly recommend this neighborhood! Hipsters like El Born, which is right next to Barri Gotic if you want your dose of trendiness. If you likelove Game of Thrones, Barri Gotic and Girona are where they filmed a few scenes of GOT, mainly for the Braavos and Dorne scenes. Walking around this neighborhood is like a medieval maze; everything is so tall and old-ish. You feel the history here and it reminded me that I was not just in another country, but it felt like a different time as well.
WHAT DID YOU EAT? Oh man. Like Spain, Barcelona is full of amazing eats. We hit up some of the tourist-famous joints. There’s a lot of hype for Boqueria and Quimet y Quimet but the hype is there for a reason! Here are the notable places where we dined:
Cerverceria/El Vaso de Oro A crowded and narrow bar with old steins as decoration. We had a seasoned old bartender and he made the night for us with his quips. P.S. The neighborhood is called L’Eixample, which is pronounced “le shem pleh.”
Tapeo Holy skuzballs… Located in Born, the food was amazing! And it didn’t break the bank. We each had a caña, then shared the following: mackerel, eggplant w/ honey, croquetas (only two, and they look like boobies, but sooooooooo good), and fideo paella a sepia (tiny noodle paella with squid and ink). With the fideo paella, I may have licked the plate and scraped every bit off the pan. I still think of that dish sometimes… NOTE: make an RSVP here if you have a party of more than two, otherwise you’ll be waiting for a while.
La Pubilla A Catalan restaurant located in the Gracia neighborhood, it’s right off the Gracia exit on the metro. The menu is in Catalan, and while they speak Spanish here, they are stalwart speakers of the Catalan language. Don’t worry, you can still point and ask. We had brunch here so we missed all of the foie related dinner entrees, but it was still worth the trip. The menu here changes regularly so if I was living in the area, I’d come often. I had the pork cheek and it was superb: creamy and unctuous on the inside and crispy and salty on the outside. It was served with a vegetable confit and reduced consomme.
Quimet y Quimet Bourdain may have made this place famous to the U.S., but I don’t think he weaseled his way through the throngs and wrote 10 items on a piece of paper and passed it to the proprietor like I did so we wouldn’t miss a thing. Ha! I think she thought it was impressive because I got a wink and a smirk from her before she started screaming orders over the din. Because of his height, Yobo was able to act as a serving fulcrum above peoples’ heads and grab our plates from bar to our standing table, back and forth until we received our order. Yay, tall husbands! Everything tasted — you guessed it — amazing! And fresh and light. NOTE: No chairs here, everything is standing room.
La Boqueria Market The famous institution that is one of the greatest food markets ever. I passed by the stall where Phil from I’ll Have What Phil’s Having has a monster foie and egg creation, but it was packed to the gills. Maybe next time I’ll have to bring a fake camera crew to clear some seats. We ended up having a cone of jamon (AMAZING), oysters, and fried anchovies. And gambas a la plancha. What a great morning that was. Yes, there is a lot of overpriced hype, but you don’t have to go in there for a full blown meal. You can eat at any of the side restaurants hoping for spillover from market visitors or take pics and grab one of the many zumos (juice). They are only 1 or 2€!
NOTE: If you go in there and expect to order a coffee to go for your wanderings, you will be chastised with raised eyebrows. If you want to do the Starbucks thing like they do in America, you will have to do it in America. The Spanish like to enjoy and savor, so if you want a coffee, which will always be through a press, you will have to enjoy it cafe style sitting down.
WHAT DID YOU DO?
- Sagrada Familia – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The inside and outside take your breath away. It was the one touristy thing that rendered me speechless and somehow got under my skin. A marvel and a feat. That’s all I’m going to say about it. The overpriced ticket to take the elevator all the way to top and walk down was worth it. If you are looking to step out of your comfort zone, this cathedral has that in spades for all your senses (except taste unless you want to lick the building which I do not advise).
- La Pedrera aka Casa Mila – It’s an apartment building still in use that was commissioned by wealthy Barcelonians to Antoni Gaudi, the architect primarily responsible for making Barcelona (and the aforementioned Sagrada Familia) such a wonder for the architecture. The roof of this place is the attraction and it is intense. Chimneys disguised as stone sentinels stand atop a terra cotta scene that undulates under your feet. It is unnerving and crowded to be up there, but unforgettable.
- Montserrat Monastery. There will be a separate post for this!
- While planning for Barcelona, it is important to be reminded that Barcelona is the pickpocket capital of the world (!). Ladies, you should always wear your bag in front of you. Dudes, put your wallets in an inner jacket pocket or your front pocket. Fortunately we didn’t get mugged or ever feel that we were in direct danger, but we did see someone on Las Ramblas scoping out a potential mark. 😦
- Barcelona and Spain used to be considered an old people destination! Now, it’s a place where younger tourists are getting their fill of a hipper Europe.
- Barcelona is a city with its own identity. A lot of the locals here speak Catalan and identify as Catalonians before identifying as Spanish. Catalan sounds like if Spanish, French, Portuguese and a little Arabic had a baby! A lot of menus and signs in Barcelona are written in Catalan, Spanish, and English (in that order).
- Because we spent the majority of a day trekking out to the Montserrat Monastery, we didn’t have time to go to Park Guell, which I am doing to the the next time we go back. I’m touching that lizard dammit!
- During my initial research, I really liked the layout of this one expat blogger so I followed a lot of his Barcelona recommendations. We went to the Montjuic Fountains on his suggestion, but I failed to double check the schedule of when the fountain was on. He just said, “Check out Montjuic Fountain.” We went on a Monday night which is a night that they DON’T play. Ugh. Okay. That’s why I’m trying to do The Realness here. If you want to see the Montjuic Fountain, here is the schedule. Check first so you don’t waste time if you’re planned a jam-packed trip. We got to the see the entire city at night from the adjacent majestic steps of the Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
- Entrance fees to a lot of the sites can get expensive so budget accordingly! (i.e. over 40€ each! Ouch!)
- Now that we know the layout, I would suggest staying in Barcelona for at least 4-5 days. Three days is not enough.
- If you’ve been to Barce before, here’s a fun link for all the filming sites within Barcelona in the movie Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.
- Barcelona is CROWDED! Even if you beat the rush to sites as an early bird, places fill up quickly. Be patient. Here is a before and after picture of an impressive door in Barri Gotic. I had to take a few snaps before the perfect one because people were constantly walking into my shot.
Okay, ready for the photo roll? ^___^