Festive, Eccentric, Delicious Barcelona

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Accomodations, Advice, Barcelona, Spain, Europe, Restaurant, Review, Story

urlBarcelona is on the biting edge of architecture, food, fashion, style, music and good times. The art, with significant collections by Picasso and Miró, is provocative; and the buildings, many by the eccentric genius Gaudí, are mind blowing. One can never get enough of the city’s eclectic vibe.

We barely had two days to spare in the city but there were so many sights, sounds and tastes to enjoy. Thankfully, we were able to maximize our itinerary with great tips shared by locals.  It was a brief sojourn well spent.

Day 1

1379633_10151826577703649_1885724892_nLuckily, our hotel was in a marketing partnership with the new Opel Adam. We took advantage of the test drive to take us to our restaurant where we had lunch with a dear friend, Tara Mapua, in Ciutat Comtal.  The place is a popular cerveceria among locals. It’s just off Passeig De Gracia and across Plaza De Catalunya.  We were so excited to get together that we over ordered tapas and indulged on the sangria.  We came out blushing and tipsy!

We were just in time to check into Room Mate Pau.  Although this was not my first choice – the very competitive travelers left me with very few choices – this 3-star hotel became a contender.  I selected this because of its location, modern chic vibe and good reviews.  It did not disappoint at all.  The quality of service and accommodation was top notch.

1376450_10151826578658649_1301360197_nRoom Mate Pau is a 2 minutes walk from Las Ramblas and Passeig de Gracia, with its exclusive shops and Gaudí monuments. Urquinaona Metro station is 150 metres away. It is also 2 stops from Barceloneta and its beach.

Venturing around the city aimlessly is a personal walking tour in itself. Barcelona has so many striking buildings that even just admiring the intricate details of its exteriors and reading up on its stories is interesting enough.  Of course, time permitting, it would be better to see the meticulous interiors as well.  The Palau de la Música Catalana was designed by the architect Lluís Domènech

For instance, The Palau de la Música Catalana was designed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Built between 1905 and 1908, as the home of the choir the Orfeó Català, it was funded by public donations and is one of the most iconic examples of Catalonia’s architectural and musical heritage. It is the only Catalan art nouveau, or modernista, concert hall which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Other places we recommend:

  • La Ribera neighborhood, a haven for artisans, tradesmen, merchants, rich people and nowadays, for charming shops.
  • The Basilica of Santa Maria Del Mar – Barcelona’s Finest Catalan Gothic Church
  • Housed in five Noble houses built in the 13th – 14th century, The Picasso Museum has numerous collections arranged in chronological order. This gave us a great overview of the life of Pablo Picasso.

For dinner, we walked a few blocks down Passeig De Gracia to reach restaurant recommended by Rone Valles Guerrero! Tapas 24 is a bustling tapas bar featuring delicious concoctions and a very good wine selection.

Day 2

IMG_5745 Just a few steps away from our hotel is the vibrant Las Ramblas.  It is a wide promenade filled with street artists, cafes and bars extending tables for patrons to people watch in and an array of shops catering to a lot of interests.  It’s a popular tourist attraction that leaves most people entranced with the atmosphere. In fact people are so distracted they can become absentminded of prevalent petty crimes.  Hence, we decided to see it during the morning.  It was also a good opportunity to build up an appetite for breakfast at the famous La Boqueria.

We were curious to try the popular Pinotxo bar.  Even if we were early, there was already a long queue to sit in one of the 14 coveted stools. The multi-tasking yet very friendly owner, Juanito Bayen has become a fixture in the Boqueria.  He was such a gracious host to everyone, making sure all were happy with their food and served well.

The staff could hardly speak English so we just chose from the specialties they announced, “Pescado or carne?”. We tried both.  They served us grilled Prawns and beef stew for breakfast with cafe con leche. Both tasted amazing.  If not for the crowd standing behind us, we could have savored it a little longer.  No wonder they say, Pinotxo is La Boqueria!

No trip to Barcelona would be complete without paying homage to the ethereal La Sagrada Familia (Antoni Gaudi’s all consuming obsession. It’s been under construction for over 100 years and it may be complete by 2026. Interpretation of the ordinal designs by present day architects is particularly challenging because the actual construction stones are irregularly shaped.

Because it’s the most popular tourist attraction in the city, it was best decision to purchase tickets ahead of time. Despite having our passes, we still had to wait in line a bit to enter the gates and join the tour groups. So many opted to just take pictures by the facade, but knowing the story behind Gaudi’s masterpiece makes it even more priceless than the vision that it is. The tour of the interiors made it even more brilliant. Every detail in the church was thought through, including the shape and placement of windows to create the mottled effect one would see with sunlight pouring through the branches of a thick forest. now we can proudly say we have contributed to the finishing of this piece de resistance.

 Museu Gaudí, below ground level, includes interesting material on Gaudí’s life and other works, as well as models and photos of La Sagrada Família.

Regardless of all the controversy surrounding the Sagrada Familia it is a truly magnificent building and an absolute must-see when you visit Barcelona. IMG_2898

W had lunch was on the Beach, at La Barceloneta! We were so excited to eat that we came at Noon. Apparently too early, we had to wait until 1PM for Lunch to be served.

That Paella Valenciana in Xirinquito Escriba was heaven in a large pan.  And yes we finished it all!  We paired it with an Entrecot de Ternera that was delightful as well.  So many dishes down the menu sounded tempting if only we had space for another Paella in our bellies.

After lunch we headed for the Hop On Hop Off Bus Stop to purvey the rest of the cityscape.  It was a cool and relaxing way to admire the bounty of architectural landmarks by renowned artists.

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From the bus stop, we walked 15min uphill to reach the infamous Park Güell. It was commissioned by Eusebi Güell who wanted to create a stylish park for Barcelona aristocracy.  Gaudí was strongly influenced by natural shapes and used them in his work.  We came across a walkway supported by twisting rock pillars that seem to be growing out of the ground like tree trunks. Although these are rather irregular in shape they do feel strangely natural too.

The park contains amazing stone structures, stunning tiling and fascinating buildings. At the top of Güell park is a terraced area where you get a wonderful view of the park and of Barcelona City. My favorite was the multi-coloured tiled mosaic seats as shown above. The vibrant colours of the tiles are truly breathtaking.

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IMG_5845Based on another great recommendation by Rone Valles Guerrero, we had our last dinner in La Pepita. This place is a must try place if you are visiting Barcelona! It serves Spanish tapas but with a contemporary twist.  Of course, you will also have to try their signature La Pepita. This sandwich is just the jumping-off point, with numerous variations: Pepita Napolitana with mozzarella and dried tomatoes, hamburger Pepita, tuna Pepita, salmon Pepita, vegetarian Pepita, Pepita with foie and fried eggs or, to really gild the lily, the Pepita Gin, which comes with a top-notch gin and tonic on the side. Thankfully, we made reservations as it’s a tiny restaurant but the ambiance is quite charming and quirky (all at the same time).

On our way back to the hotel we decided to enjoy an evening stroll down Passeig De Gracia.  Apart from gawking at the window displays of premiere stores, we admired the remarkable buildings along the way.

Although we only had two days to spare in Barcelona, we we accomplished a lot.  It was not just ticking off the sights from our list, we actually savoured each spot.

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