Hello out there! SB and I have yet to report on our delightful vacation in Barcelona in May with two of our oldest friends in celebration of us all turning 30. So here we go. In a word, it was lovely. The city was beautiful. Our week was a nice combination of tourism and relaxation. And it was refreshing to have so much time to catch up on life and be together. It felt exciting and adventurous to meet up in a European city. Our apartment in Barri Gotic, or the Gothic neighborhood, was perfectly located, minimalist, and had plenty of room for us to spread out. We were steps from the Catedral, one of the oldest churches in the city, and the metro, which we used a few times. We walked to dinner each night, never more than five or ten minutes. Our favorite restaurant was Pla, a cozy joint just around the corner and up the alley from our building. I think I could do a number of posts on the sites, the restaurants, and definitely the bike tour. But for now, here’s an overview.
Monday: We arrived, SB & friends from Birmingham, and me from Bahrain. In the afternoon, we explored the adjacent neighborhood, La Ribera, grabbed wine and cheese, and then walked to dinner at a local tapas place. We tried to go to bed early but were awoken by a large protest march coming down our street! Interesting to see that big of a crowd and get a taste of the political environment right off the bat.
Tuesday: We grabbed breakfast and headed straight to the Picasso Museum, only a 10 minute walk from our apartment. It was fascinating to see how Picasso’s work changed throughout his lifetime to include much more variety than the classic, famous Picasso paintings I was familiar with. We then grabbed food for a picnic and caught the double-decker tourist bus that circles the city two different ways. We took the “blue route” that passed La Sagrada Familia and hopped off at Park Guell, a lovely green space designed by Gaudi located at a top point in the city. After some back-and-forth about where we should land our hungry selves, we found a spot on a wall with a great view. We ate our cured meats, cheese, homemade bread, and fruit for lunch and drank some wine. That night we ate at Pla. Yum.
Wednesday: Biking & wine day! We took an hour train ride out to Luverne, where our friend and biking guide Albert picked us up at the quaint train station. Five minutes later, we were in a cute garage in the hills of the Spanish country side. He adjusted our seats, we did a few practice laps up the hill, and then we set off on our bike tour. We went to 2 vineyards and loved both. This was probably my favorite day–lots of activity, tasty wine and cava, and laughter.
Thursday: We dedicated the morning to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous work. We waited in line for about 30 minutes to get a ticket. Then, we had another 45 minutes to wait before entering, so we took off, intending to hit up a few more architectural gems in the area–additional Modernista sites. Thankfully we got way-laid by a little espadrille shop and spent our time in there instead. We walked out with several bags of shoes, which were inexpensive and adorable. Then, we toured the massive church, which has been under construction for over 100 years. It was packed with tourists, but it was incredible, and the architecture was completely unique. Afterward, we took the long way home, stopped off for a delightful taco lunch and wandered through some shops. After a siesta, we grabbed a snack, browsed a local market, and saw the lovely La Catedral, steps away from our apartment. We paid a few euro to go to the rooftop, which was stunning. In our efforts to take a solid selfie, we laughed till we cried. This night, we played cards on our balcony and drank the wine we had bought at one of the vineyards the day before.
Friday: Beach day! We hiked (it felt long) over to the port area, right on the water. After reserving a spot on the catamaran for a sunset cruise, we found a bike rental place and strapped our bags on the backs of our beach cruisers. We proceeded to bike a few (or more) miles down the Barcelona coast in search of a less crowded area. We were zealous in our search but ended up turning around because we found ourselves in too much a remote location for our comfort. And so that’s how we ended up slightly hangry and needing lunch. After eating at a little beach cafe, we and plopped down on a very crowded beach to relax for a few hours afterward. Our evening catamaran adventure was relaxing and gorgeous. The Mediterranean was a perfect shade of blue, and we relaxed over a bottle of wine on the deck.
Saturday: We ate a hearty brunch, which was refreshingly American in nature. As we packed back at the apartment, we did some trouble-shooting about how to transport the nine bottles of wine home that had been purchased with cava-induced enthusiasm. And then everyone sent me off with hugs and a few tears. The other three stayed an extra night. That day, they toured the Miro museum and took it easy.
This trip felt like such a gift–there’s nothing quite like discovering a new place with people you love. In retrospect, I’m really glad we did a little planning on the front end to be sure that we saw the highlights of the city. But we all agreed to a pretty relaxed pace, which made things fun. Hasta luego, Barcelona–it was, indeed, lovely.