Spring break part one, my friend and I left Saturday night from London to Barcelona arriving for the first time in Spain at midnight with no map and no understanding of catalan, their local language. After a few wrong turns we finally arrived at our airbnb apartment and were greeted by our other friend who arrived earlier in the day. The weather all week was bright and sunny, quite the change from London. We decided to use our first day to go day trip over to Monserrat since it was clear and sunny.
Getting to Monserrat is only a short train ride from the center of Barcelona, about an hour away, out to the countryside and mountain range. After getting off the train to the base of Monserrat you have the chic of taking a funicular or Aericar to get up the mountain. The funicular is a like very steep uphill monorail car and the Aericar is a hanging cable car. We opted for the Aeri and enjoyed the views as we made our way up the 1000m of mountain face.
Monserrat is home to the site of the Benedictine Abbey, Santa Maria de Monserrat, which hosts the Virgin Mary of Monserrat. The Abbey is situated on the side of the cliff and provides amazing views of the surrounding area. The abby itself hosts quite a large sanctuary with many ornate murals on the walls. Surrounding the abbey is several hiking trails and another funicular that can take you to the summit of Monserrat.
The second day we decided the best way to see most of Barcelona was taking the hop on-off bus tour. The busses go all around the city stopping at all the main attractions and provides earphones to listen to an audio guide as you make your way around. On the bus ride we saw the ornate Casa Batlló with its curvy dragon like roof.
We then moved on to Sagrada Familia, a massive church designed by Antoni Gaudi that ha been under construction since 1882. The massive church is paid for through private donations leading to delays in finishing it but they are in no rush. The Church dwarfs everything around it and has so much detail on every part of the building.
From Sagrada we headed up to Park Güell which was also designed by Gaudi. The park has lots of paths and trails running through it leading up to the top of the hill where amazing views of the whole city can be seen. Park Güell is also home to a large mosaic wall encompassing a terrace and a large mosaic statue of a salamander as well as a museum of Antoni Gaudi’s home.
After the park we meandered on the bus through the neighborhood of Gràcia where on March 3rd they happened to celebrate a big festival and parade called Sant Medir where people on floats throw candy to all the people lined up on the streets. Our bus was filled with candy as we rode right behind a float and the open top double decker bus was a prime target. People of all ages were running around with grocery bags collects little pieces of candy. We took the bus through Olympic park and Camp Nuo where FC Barcelona plays. the stadium is pretty bland from the outside but on game day is full of energy with a capacity of almost 100,000 people. We ended the night at a bar called the Dow Jones where drink prices go up and down like the stock market and as people buy drinks that one goes up and others go down. Every now and then a siren goes off with lots of flashing lights indicating a “market crash” where all the drinks are very cheap. The bar also played american sports so we were able to have a little bit of home watching college basketball there.
Day 3: We got sandwiches at the best sandwich shop in Barcelona, Bo` de B, fresh grilled filling of chicken or beef toped with fresh veggies and then layered with their custom sauces all on a fresh baguette for 3 euros, we couldn’t beat it. I am getting hungry just thinking about it. We were regulars by the time we left, tallying up 8 sandwiches over the course of the trip it was the perfect walking around snack. We then headed over to the Picasso museum which holds over 2400 of his works from his early years up until his end. the museum had lots of pieces that we not typical Picasso, showcasing his change in style over time. His early years at age 14 we mostly of classical landscapes and portraits which later changed to more iconic abstract styles and his blue period. That night we ventured over to a bar called Espit Chupitos that only served shots but had a list of over 100 different shots. the bar itself is lined with metal because many of the shots are not traditional and some involving setting the bar on fire. We tried the boy scout where we were given a skewer with a marshmallow on it and we toasted it over the fire set on the bar and put it out in our shot. The concept was very neat and the bar had a lively crowd thanks to it being 1 euro shot night.
Day 4: After seeing the Olympic park on the bus tour and regretted not getting off to see it, we decided to go back over and check it out. The area provided nice views of the city and had a big square around all the arenas. The stadium were the track and file events were held was open for free to walk in and see. Just down the street we saw the pool for the platform diving. After seeing the park we had lunch at a small tapas restaurant that to our luck had 1 euro tapas day going on. Plates of chorizo, empanadas and croquettes were quickly eaten all for next to nothing. The restaurant had the Catalan version of Two and a Half Men and Wheel of Fortune on. We made our way to the beach since it was still sunny out and saw a surf class heading out to go hit the waves.
Our last day in Barcelona we went and picked up some fresh pastries and bread from our newly favorite bakery Macxipan and walked down La Rambla looking at all the tourist shops. There is a big market off of La Rambla with many booths selling anything from fresh seafood to fruits and veggies to the very tasty Jamón ibérico, catalan for very expensive ham. The ham is shaved paper thin off the pig leg with its infamous black hoof still attached and has a powerful nutty flavor due to the pigs diet of only white acorns. We moved on gelato at supposedly the best place outside of Italy and the gelato was in fact very good and fresh with many flavors. After it was time to pack up and back to Placa Catalunya for the bus to the airport.