March 13, 2016

Bon dia Barcelona!

If I only have 90 Schengen-friendly days in Europe, deciding where to go — and how long to stay there — is a constant juggling act. I knew that I wanted to visit Barcelona, and I hoped that four nights there was enough.

It was not.

If I didn’t feel the need to go go go, I would’ve stayed longer. Still, I did manage to experience quite a bit of Catalan culture during my brief visit. Here are some highlights from my time in Barcelona:

  • I’m not a foodie, and I don’t value fine dining enough to spend a lot of money on my meals. But some things are worth a splurge. Like tapas! Luckily, my Airbnb was close to La Flauta, a place that’s really good and not too expensive. My meal started with pa amb tomàquet — bread that’s grilled, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with tomato. Following that, I had small plates of sirloin, shrimp, tuna, asparagus, and mushrooms. It was plenty of food that, along with a glass of wine, cost €22. Worth it!

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  • The Picasso Museum was fantastic. It was such a thrill to see so much of his work — and such a range — all in one place. Is there anything he couldn’t do? It also made me think of this old SNL skit. I’m Picasso!
  • Palau de la Música Catalana is Barcelona’s magnificent concert hall. To see the interior, you have to attend an event or one of their group tours. I did the latter. Totally worth it.

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  • Las Ramblas is the very wide, very long, pedestrian street that’s extremely popular with tourists. And pickpockets! (more on that in a bit)

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  • Off to one side of Las Ramblas is the huge and mouth-watering Mercat de La Boqueria. At this beautiful market, you can buy fresh meat, seafood and produce, as well prepared and cooked-to-order foods. One day, I bought a jamón/queso empanada and some big green olives stuffed with salmon.
  • When people think of Barcelona, they think of Antoni Gaudí. I signed up for a tour that visited several of his more famous buildings that included, l-r, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà
  • I also went back on my own to tour the inside of Casa Batlló, with its beautiful terrace and rooftop, whimsical chimneys, and dragon backbone…
  • And the absolutely breathtaking Sagrada Família. My photos don’t do this magnificent, work-in-progress place justice.
  • I went up the elevator of Sagrada Família’s Passion Tower and got some good views of the city…
  • And I went back down to La Flauta for a late breakfast on my last day. Still yummy!

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Other things:

  • Accommodation in Barcelona is pretty reasonable. I had an incredible Airbnb apartment for $113/night. It was in a cool old building, with a cool old-timey elevator, and a cool view looking aaaaalllllll the way down to the front lobby.

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  • Barcelona’s main attractions, however, are a bit expensive. Here’s the breakdown:

Picasso Museum €11

Sagrada Família €29 (this includes the audio guide and admission to one of the towers)

Casa Batllo €22.50

Palau de la Música Catalana €18

  • The dire warnings about pickpockets in Italy were no match for the dire warnings about pickpockets in Barcelona! Travel forum chatter aside, nearly every local I made small talk with advised me to be wary of pickpockets. But, similar to my time in Italy, I had no problems or bad experiences.

While on my Gaudí tour, I met a young couple from Dallas who were also doing a RTW trip. They’re financing theirs by participating in Workaway — a program that matches hosts providing room and board with travelers willing to provide various services (child care, farm work, teaching English, housekeeping, etc…). For two hours, we could not stop talking with each other! We had fun comparing experiences and sharing tips. It also was nice being able to converse so easily (I don’t have that opportunity very often) and share a surprising number of common quirks.

Are you always forgetting what day it is? YES!

Did you go through a period of shock in the beginning from all the change? YES!

Do you miss all your stuff? NO!

Do you find yourself trying to create little routines when you can, just to have something that feels stable? YES!

There are some wonderful and helpful blogs written by full-time RTW travelers … people who’ve been doing this for years … like Nomadic Matt and Adventurous Kate. But having a face-to-face conversation and finding comfort in the normalizing common ground was really cool and appreciated. I’m so grateful our paths crossed.

Barcelona has joined the growing list of cities that I’d love to visit again one day. I managed to squeeze in a lot of sightseeing, but there’s much more to explore.

And eat!