I’ve never really been much of a traveller because I’m too much of a home-bird, but I think city breaks are the thing for me. I love the anticipation of having booked three or four days away, knowing that you’ve got an entire city to explore and temporarily call your home. Barcelona is a city which stole my heart quite some time ago and it’s a place that I never tire of seeing. So, finding ourselves with a week off work and no plans, we decided to visit one of our old haunts for a few days.
A city of style, symmetry and sophistication, you’d expect Barcelona to have the pomp and ceremony of Paris. Instead, you get a warm, enveloping hug that says “welcome to our beautiful city, have a wander around”, perhaps followed by a “please don’t touch the valuables.” Everywhere you look, you are met with beauty; tree lined streets, ornate balconies, plush restaurants, quaint cafes, sunkissed fashionistas. Yet it’s not a “look how fancy we are”, snobby kind of beauty, no, it’s more natural than that. It’s a proud beauty, an elegance if you will. A wonderful explosion of architectural style, of creative ideas, and good quality living.
The atmosphere is vibrant with mopeds whizzing past at breakneck speeds, the smells of food markets, the sights of street performers, different languages, bustling tourism, cool and classy metropolitanism. You just want to breathe it all in at once. With surroundings full of Gaudi masterpieces, the remnants of the old Gothic Quarter, the quaint streets of old Barcelona, and the modern housing of the new era, Barcelona stands as a work of art in itself. Everywhere you look is just so pretty. Despite this, it’s one of the most relaxed cities I’ve ever visited with the pace of life being slow and easy. After a stressful couple of months in both of our jobs, this was exactly what we needed!
We’d seen a lot of the go-to tourist sites on previous visits so running around like headless chickens was definitely not on our agenda this time. Instead, the focus was very much on drinking on the promenade, people-watching, taking in the surroundings, and eating marvellous food. I’m pleased to report that we were successful on all counts.
Staying at the beautiful Vincci Gala Hotel, we were a mere five minute walk from Plaça de Catalunya so we certainly felt like we were in the thick of the excitement and buzz. There was also a wonderful bakery just a few doors down from the hotel which provided us with many a happy breakfast. This girl can’t resist a pastry, let me tell you. This came in particularly handy on the day we decided to walk the six mile round trip to stunning Park Güell. Meandering through the city streets, we watched as the landscape changed around us on our ascent to the park. Thankfully, the weather was springlike, so we could walk quite happily without sweating to death. Well, at least until we reached the bottom of quite a stupendous hill that had both of our calves burning!
A thing you need to know about Park Güell is that you don’t need to pay to get in. You’ll see a queue at the entrance and, being the upstanding Brits we are, we were drawn to this like two moths to a familiar flame. However, you only need to pay if you want to see the Gaudi sculptures and his house; the rest of the park is free. I mean, you may think it pointless to walk all that way and not see the Gaudi sculptures but that’s precisely what we did. Simply looking for a place to sit and admire our surroundings, we were happy at finding ourselves a shady bench where we could survey the beautiful Barcelona landscape laid out below us.
Honestly, the park is a work of art in itself. The horticulture was flawless with every tree, shrub, and flower having a place and a purpose in framing the vista of the city beyond. With sandy paths and uneven stone steps, it was a tricky walk at times but one full of delights as noisy parakeets flew overhead and live music snuck out from various caves and nooks around the park. Feeling fully relaxed and pleased with ourselves, we made the trek back to the city centre in search of tapas.
We had a specific place in mind; a tiny little cubbyhole called Palosanto not far from Las Ramblas. With approximately six tables, it’s definitely a case of blink and you’ll miss it (and miss it we did, wandering around for half an hour before we happened upon it). Excitedly anticipating the purportedly wonderful tapas that Palosanto had to offer, we bustled in the door to find the place packed to the rafters, buzzing with noise, and smelling incredible. Unfortunately, we were met with the sad news that all of the tables were reserved for the rest of the night. Which of course made me want to eat there more than ever. Reliably informed that, if we returned a little bit earlier in the evening the next day, we should be able to have the dining experience we so desperately wanted, we did just that.
The next day, our bellies could think of nothing but Palosanto. Eagerly arriving at 7:30pm (pretty early by Mediterranean standards) we were delighted to be met with one or two empty tables. The lovely staff greeted us with a smile and I was positively jumping up and down with glee…until we were thoroughly devastated by the confirmation that all of the tables were again reserved. Crestfallen, we attempted to find some way to try this restaurant before having to return to Britain the following day but to no avail. We took our forlorn selves out onto the pavement outside and began to debate where else to go when we were suddenly SAVED from our misery. Recognising how disappointed we were and knowing that we had tried the night before, one of the staff ushered us in and said we could have a table for an hour if we were happy to take it. Erm, hell yes we’ll take it.
Short of high fiving each other, it’s safe to say were were pretty damn pleased with how things had turned out and we weren’t disappointed. A tiny nook with books, prints, drawings, and knick-knacks all over the place provided a cosy space to eat some of the best tapas I’ve eaten in my entire life. Families and couples bonded over a relaxed conveyor belt of glorious grub and staff shouted and squeezed past each other in the narrow space. We ordered crispy chicken strips with the most wonderful accompanying jam, ham croquetas (two portions actually becuase I am a croqueta fiend), patatas bravas, and a mountain of nachos. Perhaps not the most adventurous of choices, but definitely the best picks for comforting, wholesome food. We were perfectly taken care of and couldn’t speak highly enough of our experience (in fact, I continued to think about that food for about two weeks afterwards). Squiffily leaving rather a hefty tip, we made our way into the balmy night feeling that our Barcelona visit was fully complete.
Have you ever visited Barcelona? What did you see and do whilst you were there? I’d love to hear about your holiday adventures!
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