Even during the tail end of winter, Barcelona still shines as one of the most vibrant cities we have ever visited. It pretty much has everything – a vibrant culture and art scene, beautiful beaches, and more.
I “could” definitely live here.
Even wandering around and getting lost in the old part of the city was fun, especially at night. Laura guided us through the dark, eerily quiet alleys only to turn the corner and stumble upon lively night cafe’s, tapas bars, opera singers. The Cathedral of Santa Eulalia was very ominously captivating, we got lucky and had a quick look inside during an evening service (I think we even like it better than the Notre Dame de Paris).
We happened to experience the biggest snowfall the city of Barcelona has ever seen, in more than 20 years on the Monday (March 8th) and the coldest day the city has ever experienced since anyone can remember on the Wednesday (March 10th). While basking in the sun, we were also bracing ourselves against lingering winter wind, jumping over large puddles of water, and meandering through left over piles of snow. (Read a blog post about it and in the news).
The Museo Nacional d’Art – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya is where I got entranced with Modernisme and architecture – the Spanish version of impressionism and post-impressionist art where one guide book describes it as “eclectic architecture of Egyptian, Moorish, Roman, Greco-Roman to neo-Gothic, sinuous lines, asymmetry, dynamism, and richness of detail and refinement”.
The restaurant on top of Marimar was a little expensive in my mind but really, you are paying for the view. After that, we took the cable car down where we got a stunning overview of the city, a rare sight of snow covered mountains, and a glimpse of the some of the largest waves I have ever seen. I can imagine the beach would be packed during the summer. We ended the day walking along the strip and on the La Rambla.
The next day, we started off with a walk to Parc Güell. On the map, it looked like a nice 1 hour’sh walk North. However, our map didn’t show the incline so it was more like a 2 hour uphill walk. Parc Güell was just okay (we already saw a view of the city from Parc Montjuic and the vegetation was just starting to bloom) but the real draw was Antoni Gaudi’s work. Speaking of which…
It took me a while to understand where his art was coming from (abstract, organic-looking structures and blaring colour palettes) but after experiencing the development of one of the most spectacular structures in the world, I almost feel like I should have known better (Gaudi uses nature as his architectural inspiration). It will probably not be finished in my lifetime (nor my children’s) but I am very glad I paid the hefty entrance fee to contribute towards this rare phenomenal masterpiece.
Heh, I also got T to go up one of the towers.
Here is one VERY useful tip. You will notice that once you enter the building, you will immediately notice to your right a very, VERY long cue of people waiting for the elevator that takes you up one of the towers. However, what most guides neglect to tell you (and there are no signs indicating otherwise) is that there is another elevator at the other end of the building where there are hardly any line-ups (people were wondering if the elevator was even working. We knew, and as soon as it come down, we quickly ran ahead of the confusion and jumped in). It was quite a memorable, thrilling experience for both of us (narrow corridors, depth-defying views, and a freaky stairway walk down. A big thanks to our local guide for the tip.
Some random notes
Interestingly enough (for me at least), around the Carrer de Sepúlveda area there are computer/tech stores everywhere.
For people interested in the underground music scene, two streets off La Rambla caught my eye (Carrer dels Tallers and Carrer del Bonsuccés). You will definitely find the alternative, punk style music stores, clothing, and paraphernalia.
The Fortuny – The Alchemist of Venice exhibit at the Caixa Catalunya Obra Social showed how multi-talented he was. Wandering the old part of Barcelona at night was very cool,
The Maritime Museum of Barcelona was surprisingly small and inexpensive (2.50 Euros to get in) but they were undergoing renovations at the time. It wasn’t bad but not spectacular either. The exhibits were informative but felt dated (like 1980’s).
Although we didn’t go in, the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, it looked from the outside entertaining with an uncanny, Discovery Channel story-telling approach.
The St. Josep Mercat, La Boqueria – lined with the freshest Mediterranean seafood we have seen to date.
Finding parking would be painful, but luckily we parked at our friend’s parent’s apartment underground parking. I wouldn’t recommend bringing a car into the city – traffic is very heavy during rush hours.
Thank you to Simon and Laura for being our gracious hosts.