Just a quick weekend getaway as our time in Germany was starting to wind down-- and it still feels incredible to be able to call Barcelona a "quick weekend getaway".
Barcelona is located in the Catalonia area of Spain, which recently has shown the desire to break of from Spain and become an independent country. The movement is underway as shown by the majority of flags hung from windows. There are 2 versions of the Catalonian flag-- one supports independence and one does not. In the areas we were in, about 60-65% of flags flown supported independence. And everybody that you talk to has an opinion to share on the issue. A great way to interact with locals is a food tour—something that we have done in several of the cities that we have visited.
This food tour also didn’t disappoint. The pictures are about as close as you can get to actually tasting the good. Our host brought us through the Gracia neighborhood including stops at a bakery, a tapas bar where we learned to make tomato bread, a locals dive bar & neighborhood hangout where vermouth is served with anchovies, a vibrant market where we sample Iberian cheeses and meats, and olive oil store (little known fact: 45% of the world’s olive oil is originally grown in Spain), and lastly a fancier restaurant where we had an interesting dish—sausages were served with a locally grown vegetable that are kind of like leeks, which are wrapped and grilled. Usually this is a tradition where you go out into the countryside and have a big bonfire of sorts and just eat dozens of these vegetables—this was one of the only restaurants in town that serves this delicacy. One interesting note on the food culture is that tapas are actually not a tradition in Barcelona. However, so many people have moved to Barcelona from all over the country where that has always been the tradition that tapas restaurants are now omnipresent.
Barcelona is one of the most stunning and unique architectural cities we’ve visited. This is all thanks to a late 19th/ early 20th century architect named Antoni Gaudi—his unmistakable designs are found littered across the city. Colorful expressions that sometimes resemble what one expects in a painting make this real life world look like a fantasy. Two of our favorite places designed by Gaudi were Park Guell and Casa Battlo. Park Guell sits up on a hill and offers fantastic panoramic views of the city, while also providing interesting photo opportunities. Casa Battlo sits more centrally in the city but can be found easily based on the tour busses stopping for photos. The tour, while a bit expensive, is absolutely worth it—it is a self-guided tour where you get an augmented reality tablet that improves the viewing experience.
La Sagrada Familie is one of the best known churches in the world—for good reason. Physically dominating both inside and out, the church is still under construction and will be for the foreseeable future; however, that hardly detracts from its beauty. It is unique in the sense that it is built using the structure and architecture of churches that were typically built many centuries ago, but using materials that look newer and cleaner than the typical European stone churches. Additionally, Gaudi’s influence is seen here as well, as he masterfully created a structure that is beautifully lit with natural light. An absolute must see in Barcelona.
Outside of the food tour, we also visited a couple of cool bars and restaurants. After enjoying the vermouth during the tour, we sought out a bar that makes its own vermouth. “Bar” might be overstating this place—it was really just a tiny hole in the wall where the owner/barkeeper talked at length with us. He is only open 5 hours a day and takes liberal breaks to go outside and watch the crowds go by—he embodied the relaxed lifestyle for us. Later that night, we made our way to an interesting place which is a crepes restaurant by day and lively hangout by night. Handcrafted cocktails are served by creative bartenders who create a lively atmosphere by swinging the hanging lights to add some movement to the room.
Our last stop as at the impressive Camp Nou soccer stadium which seats almost 100,000 fans. Our colder nighttime game only was about 2/3 full, which is still almost 70,000 fans. The game itself was hardly a contest, as the opposing goaltender got a red card in the 4th minute, which lead to an unrelenting Barcelona attack which produced several very Barcelona-style goals.