barcelona, revisited.

20 Jun

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Barcelona. I am just a few pegs down on the obsession scale from a full-scale MTV documentary “True Life: I’m Obsessed with a Far Away Place” being made about me. In fact, that’s what my friend Kathleen and I named our room in our sorority senior year – but she was obsessed with Jackson Hole, Wyoming for skiing reasons I will never understand. But, I digress. When my aunt proposed an AVE (high-speed train) trip to Barcelona for two nights, I jumped at the proposition.

Having visited Barcelona in April, I had done my requisite first trip back since being abroad and had hit up some of my all-time favorite places: La Rita, La Oveja Negra, Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia, and, of course, Opium Mar nightclub. My goal this time was different – I wanted to show my aunt (a Barcelona first-timer!) my favorite places, but also make sure I hit up something that was new to me. Of course both of those goals were accomplished easily, and the trip was both relaxing and jam-packed with sight seeing.

We arrived on Friday around 3 pm at the train station, Sants Estació, and literally walked across the street to the hotel my aunt had booked, AC Sants. We re-grouped quickly and took the metro to Plaça Catalunya, where the first item on our list of to-dos was walking Las Ramblas. Plaça Catalunya had vestiges of the 15-M movement: dreadlocked catalanes and protest signs filled the normally bare plaza. We checked out the street performers, popped into La Boqueria, and eventually made our way to the Port and Barceloneta beaches.

tent city.

After a ton of walking, we needed a break so we went to a rooftop bar I’d heard about through a blog I follow, Anywhere there’s an Airport. It’s located at Ramblas, 109 and is the bar on the roof of Hotel 1898. The views were amazing, and a rare view of Barcelona from the city center itself, as opposed to a panoramic view from the northern points of the city. We each sipped a glass of cava (bomb) and took in the views of the trees of Las Ramblas, the Barcelona Cathedral, the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar, and the faint view of the ocean. I would definitely recommend this place for a quiet break in the midst of the touristy center of Las Ramblas, and I was so happy to discover a charming new place to send people to in my fav city! (Tip: there weren’t really signs for the bar, but take the elevator or stairs to the 7th floor, and you will be on the rooftop. Also, prices for cocktails were pretty steep, so check out a menu before you commit to that mojito).

cava + nuts + bcn.

rooftop of H1898

loving my city. 🙂

Next on the sight seeing agenda was a quick walk over to La Sagrada Familia, Antoní Gaudí’s famous church in the L’Eixample region of the city. We went around 7:30 at night, which was the perfect time to avoid tourists and get as many photos as we could. It’s amazing to me how every time I see it, it looks a little bit different – and this is one thing about Barcelona that separates it from every other city. Gaudí started his magnum opus in 1926, and we’ll be lucky if it’s finished entirely by 2026. It’s epic. If you haven’t been to Barcelona, do me the very least and rent Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Ok, thanks.

the nativity facade.

Friday’s dinner was another favorite: La Rita. We shared chicken with apple and cheese sauce, duck magret with fig sauce, and an appetizer I’d had before of pasta and green salad with a walnut pesto sauce. The show stopper, however, was dessert: slices of almond ice cream with Catalan custard on top (a version of crème Brule), doused in hot chocolate sauce. Perfection. After dinner, we metro’d back to the hotel and called it a night.

i wasn't happy this was taken at the time.

Our first stop Saturday was Gaudí’s other main Barcelona attraction: Park Guell. Originally designed as a housing development similar to some he’d seen in England, that idea was eventually scrapped and is now a park with incredible views of the city. Gaudí was inspired by nature – and that shows through in his parabolic columns, wave-like walk-ways, and use of mosaics everywhere. I was glad to hit up this obsession again on this trip to BCN. We spent a large portion of the afternoon just walking through the city: though the Gracia and El Raval districts, and back along Las Ramblas.

park guell.

catch a wave?

barcelona cathedral.

cat statue in El Raval.

We stopped for lunch at my favorite kebab place: Divan, C/ Bonsuces 8 (remember, the owner who looks like George Clooney if you squint really hard and happen to be drinking an Estrella?). My aunt loved it (phew) and we were so full we literally skipped dinner.

a day's worth of calories.

After the kebab-fest, we meandered our way to the Museu Picasso. I’d gone here once before with ISA in February 2009, but wanted to check it out again since Picasso is (most likely) my favorite artist…I’m hesitant to commit, hah! The museum was probably the highlight of the entire trip for me: I was able to see some works of his that I’d fallen in love with previously, like these:

Picasso's Barcolenta Beach (done at age 15 in 1896)

"Science and Charity" - 1897

but was also entranced by an exhibition I hadn’t remembered seeing previously. Picasso painted a series of paintings in 1957 based on and inspired by Velazquez’s “Las Meninas.” I can go on at length about how awesome this exhibit was – so don’t worry, I plan to. It was totally up my alley, so I bought a few postcards before we left.

We walked by the Arc de Triomf, through the Parc de la Ciutadella, along the port, and then I suggested a stop at CDLC: Capre Diem Longe Club, for a jarra of the sangria de cava. My aunt realized she loves two new drinks: sangria and cava! This was clearly a must for us. We sat along the beach, sipped our (hardly alcoholic) drinks, reflected on our trip, and people watched – especially comical was the bachelorette party for a woman wearing a leopard print bikini, mask and flippers, and a curly blonde wig). We got back on the metro and luxuriated at the AC Sants before taking a 10 am AVE train back to Madrid on Sunday.

sangria de cava at CDLC.

seize the day.

bachelor/bachelorette party inter-mingling.

Have you ever been to Barcelona? What should I add to my list for “new things” to do there on my (inevitable) next trip there?

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10 Responses to “barcelona, revisited.”

  1. Kathy Satterfield June 20, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Tim, my husband, says that we don’t need Rick Steves’ travel books. “We have Gillian. She is way better.” An alternate future perhaps?

    • gillian June 20, 2011 at 11:00 am #

      Wow, thank you! That is such a HUGE compliment!

  2. Kristen - Anywhere There's An Airport June 20, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Hi Gillian! So much of this is so familiar 🙂 However… for my next Barcelona trip, I think I will be seeking advice from you! 🙂

    • gillian June 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

      Haha, thanks Kristen! It’s hard to go wrong in that city! Thanks for writing about H 1898 🙂

  3. Allison Elkins June 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    So jealous you got to return to Barcelona, Gilian! I hope to after Peace Corps in a couple years….maybe just to live for a while 🙂 No Xampaneria on this trip?

    • gillian June 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

      Thanks Allison! Yes you definitely need to return! I didn’t make it to Xampaneria this trip – but I will definitely have to go back 🙂

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