We had geared ourselves up for party town central or that’s what we had read. Barcelona – always busy, crowded, full of tourists, street performers and of course the city of pick pockets. Well we were pleasantly surprised how sedate and relaxed the city of Barcelona was on our first few days. We arrived on the Three Kings Day, which is the Spanish celebration for Christmas held on the 6 January which means that 6 and 7 January are public holidays. We had a great train ride into the city from Perpignan (we dropped our car off over the border in France to save $1200) and found our apartment easily. No more car for a week!
Our apartment is gorgeous and situated about 1km away from La Sagrada Familia the famous Gaudi Cathedral. After doing some research we were set for a full day of roaming the sites of Barcelona. We have read too many stories about the pick pockets here so I placed my money in my sock, didn’t take a back pack and I wore only tights so the pick pockets wouldn’t come near me. Rob left our passports in the unit and kept a careful eye on his wallet. We were really careful to avoid any helpful person or distracting street performer but to our surprise it was a solemn rainy day with no street performers in sight only a few people selling umbrellas. This didn’t stop us from walking 12 kilometres as most of the big tourist attractions in Barcelona are spread apart. To help us along the way we first stopped for a morning coffee and a spelt croissant followed by a chocolate cone hazel nut chocolate gelato.
We admired the Gaudi architecture which is inspired by nature and strolled down the famous street Las Ramblas. Apart from the Gaudi buildings, the city is similar to many of the other European cities. It was a pleasant walk and we stopped for lunch at a burger place we had researched as supposedly the best in Barcelona – just goes to show though as our buns were fairly stale (the burger ones – ours are getting tighter with all the walking :)). This was in the Gothic Quarter – the oldest part of the city.
PARC DE LA CIUTADELLA
After that, we wandered to the port and then thought we would look at a park on the way back – only to be pleasantly surprised by one of the highlights of the city – an amazing fountain – with some couples learning how to dance to jazz music – such an inspiration. One thing we love about this city is it is easy to cross the road as the lights stay green for pedestrians for quite a while.
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
The next day we booked tickets online to the first session at Sagrada Familia – as we did not want to miss out – up at dark (sunrise is at 8:30am) – quick stop at a beautiful little cafe near our house – nice cappuccino (hard to find) and a little spinach danish to get us started. We walked to the church and went through all of the security (similar to the airport) – and then suddenly we were through. The exterior can be examined for ages as there is so much going on – so many tiny and unusual sculptures and figures. Then we went inside.
The interior is inspired by nature – columns made to look like tree branches – amazing use of colour and space – the windows are like a shattered painting and are darker at the bottom and lighter at the top (as you go up to heaven). We don’t see many modern churches and this was amazing – such a contrast to the old cathedrals we are used to seeing. We bought a jigsaw puzzle that inspired us and a little badge for our collection. Certainly a highlight.
MERCAT DEL ENCANTS
We then left there and wandered to the market – a trash and treasure style one – which was a different experience too. Then we popped in to do our shopping – roast chicken! However this was also part of our travel experience. The chicken looked like an Australian chicken in the way it was packaged. But when Rob opened it up he had a little surprise! Here chickens come with their heads attached! Mmm! I think Rob is now a true vegetarian.
Well we thought we had avoided all scams and pick pockets in Barcelona but in the middle of the night our bank alerted us that Rob’s credit card had been compromised and someone in the US had done a lot of shopping on Rob around $2500-00. Mmmm well this meant that our credit card is now cancelled and the bank wants to send us a new one. Not that easy when you have no fixed address for a year. We have been really careful not to use our credit cards only for AirBnB accommodation bookings but in Barcelona we used it to book online tickets to the Guell Park and Home Stay accommodation.
On our last day here in Barcelona we decided to walk the 6 kilometre walk up hill to the Guell Park, famous as it is a beautiful park front designed by Gaudi. It was designed to be an exclusive home gated estate with its own market place and exclusive views over all of Barcelona. However it didn’t sell and they ended up turning it into a park. The main entrance looks like gingerbread houses with beautiful iron gates. Mosaic tiles are used at the top of the curving walls, and park seating that views out over the city towards the ocean. We were lucky to experience this magnificent park in low tourist season. The luscious park climbs via stairs to a wonderful lookout where you find yourself on top of the world or that is what it seems like. It is just as inspiring taking the curling paths back down through the park. This park is a must see here in Barcelona.
We have enjoyed walking the streets and admiring the wonderful street art that adds to the atmosphere here. Life here seems unrushed and quite sedate for a big city which sees millions of tourists each year. Now as we pack or bags we say goodbye to Spain. We feel like we have definitely seen the best of what Spain has to offer. We have spent time in the major cities, countless highways, historical towns and have had time to appreciate all that is good here in Spain! Next stop – Italy – we fly to Rome tomorrow morning.