After an unconventional sleep in the Barcelona Airport, we picked up our car rental and drove into town. Had to take a second or 3 to recalibrate to driving on the right side. Picked up a nifty little Fiat.
Winnie went off for an appointment and I went off to explore a bit before going on the Free Walking Tours Barcelona – Gothic Quarter tour.
Francisca was our tour guide (very spunky but also very passionate and well knowledgeable. We had a group from all over (Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, USA, Germany etc).
Some information I learned from this walk:
-1 man designed the whole outer city grid
-He tried to keep it all even and uniform but people started building taller and well, Gaudi,
-El Raval – gentrified – use to be red light district
-La Rambla – New city – chic local designers
-Barcelona was walled in – the king gave the land to the soldiers who used it to party, drugs and sex.
-There are 7 beaches – all artificial with sand from Egypt
-The Olympics made the city get visitors and they had to clean up
-The square with execution – The executioner was the local butcher and chosen. His family would inherit the business. The executioner couldn’t live in or outside the wall in fears of being murdered so they would literally live in the walls and climb down each time to perform an execution and then climb back up. The perks of being Executioner was that they could keep the body parts. Hands and feet hung on the door were good luck.
-The steps where Christopher Columbus met the king and queen of Spain is in that same Square.
-Agata – breast cut off – a pastry is named after this and feature a cherry on top
-The cathedral face of Eulalia of Barcelona (also known as Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia also known as Barcelona Cathedral) was a facade getting ready for Olympics. You can also see a image of Darth Vader if you look close enough.
-Geese live in Eulalia of Barcelona as the Saint was a goose herder. They punished her for being Christian. There her into a barrel with sharp objects and threw it down a hill. She survived. They burned her at the stake. She survived. They stepped her down naked and starfish her on a cross to shame her but snow fall covered her. They cutt off her head.
-The main Plaza Reica was cleaned up and pushed all the red light district to La Raval to prep for the volume of people coming for the Olympics
-Sport – the tower – 26 ft when a little cold at the very top. Sculpture.
-The New city uses Jewish tombstone pieces in they’re walls from the Jewish mountain where they bury the dead. It was faster and cheaper than digging up the Jewish Mountain.
-The Jewish, Muslim and Catholic lived relatively harmonious together in Barcelona until at one point, the Catholic and Muslim people started to perish rather quickly to some unknown disease at the time. They thought it was a plot to kill them as the Jewish were seen to not be suffering from loss as much. From outrage that such a thing could occur, the Jewish were murdered almost wiping them all out. Turns out because of their faith, they must wash their hands before every meal which in return kept them healthier as hygiene was also a major cause of the deaths.
Francisca also gave us a link to her website that can be helpful finding many attractions and places for food she recommends seeing in Barcelona.
After the tour, I met Winnie and off we went into the mountains. We drove over to Montserrat. Windy roads up but the environment was lovely. We had originally planned to hike Sant Jeroni but we realized late that we needed to take the funicular up to do any of the hikes and we wouldn’t have been able to finish that hike before the last train down. – GET THERE EARLY IN THE DAY!
With the time we had with the car rental, we decided to drive over to Sitges. This coastal town is known for the beaches, nightlife and being very LGBT friendly. We went midday in the off-season so it was dead and we walked Passeig Marítim and admired some of the beachfront homes.
Took it real easy in the evening and bought groceries and made our own tapas.
Since Winnie had already been to Barcelona earlier on the trip, she had also set up appointments for herself upon her return which left me to explore on my own. I had a very early start to get free admission to Park Güell‘s Monument section of the park. If you get in before 8AM or after 630PM it’s free! If you make it in before 8AM, you can technically stay all day if you really wanted. It took awhile for me to get out of this massive park but I continued on and walked over to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Crazy amount of tourists and also this place is forever under construction.
I kept on moving and made my way to Agbar Tower and Mercat Fira de Bellcaire Els Encants (mirrored ceilings). This flea market sells everything and it’s very overwhelming unless you know what you are looking for.
Not too far away was Parc de la Ciutadella. I got a little turned around and didn’t realize that the entrance to this park was only on the North side as I continued along the east side of the wall of the park and ended up walking around the whole park but on the outside as the only entrance I saw on that side was to the Zoo (connected but not connected to the park). I did eventually make it into the park but since it was such a long walk, I quickly walked through. There is a apparently a mini Arc de Triomphe.
And not too far from that park was La Boqueria – Mercat Boqueria Barcelona in La Rambla. 1€ fruit cups and smoothies, much needed after my morning walk. As I was crossing the street, it just so happened out of all places, I just so happened to bump into a familiar face from back home who was also on vacation.
Before coming to Barcelona, I was told I should book a paella cooking class – so we did. We booked with Airbnb experiences and booked with the lovely Helina (she’s originally from Belarus and learned how to make paella the true Catalina way from her husband’s family). We were a group of 14 from all over the world (Scotland, Korea, Ecuador, South Africa, New Zealand, USA & Brasil). Helina took us through La Boqueria and explained more about jamon, fresh seafood and spices. We purchased fresh seafood and went back to her mother’s condo nearby and that’s when all the magic began.
It was a team effort as each person had a different task in the prep. We made a Spanish classic – pan con tomate (literally garlic, tomate Para pan, olive oil, a good baguette and slices of Jamon Serrano or Iberian if you want meat), sangria and seafood paella. It was such a wonderful experience and so tasty! Depending on where you had positioned yourself at the table, you were assigned a different task. My spot was in charge of cleaning the mussels, others had prepping the sangria, making pan con tomate etc.
After that wonderful cooking experience Winnie and myself parted ways as I went to Carmel del Bunkers (also known as El Turó de la Rovira, or simply The Bunker) to take in the sunset above the city. During the Spanish Civil War, this was the bunker where anti-aircraft guns were installed. I took the train to a certain point then it’s all about walking. There is a sign to a pair of stairs that leads to a lookout point and you think that this is the bunker but it is not – keep going up. I got to the top of those stairs and there is a great view up there. You think that this view is the bunkers, keep going! From these stairs, you go left and follow the bend and over the bridge. The bridge isn’t the end. Keep going up. You will definitely know that you are at Carmel del Bunkers. There will be people climbing and sitting all over the place on cement structures. You will also have a 360 view above the city and there will be people selling cervezas if you didn’t bring any to enjoy the view. The sunset wasn’t the best but for the moment, the sky opened up with a large slash across the city and that was lovely. My phone was dying and I wanted to make sure I got back to the Airbnb before it died since my phone was my lifeline so I didn’t stay until the sun went fully down. There is another alternative to get to the Carmel Del Bunkers and it is a bus route that will drop you off closer to the top and then you walk up. I walked down the street and hopped on the bus to get me home.
We had looked into going inside Sagrada Familia early morning but there weren’t anymore tickets online. Many of our friends had recommended that we go inside but since we had a short period of time, we just searched up videos of the interior since we couldn’t go in. Also, we would have to wear clothing that covers our shoulders and almost to our knees and well, it’s hot weather for us and tights we’re a no go for us.
We went to Brunch & Cake to start the day. I got the Acai bowl with peanut butter and Winnie got the brekkie board. There are multiple locations.
As we were walking to brunch, we had started to see people walking the streets in costumes and we got curious. October 12th is Spain’s Fiesta Nacional de España – Hispanic day. It is the day Christopher Columbus discovered the America’s in 1492. It is a national holiday and obviously a huge parade with so many people dressed up in colourful costumes dancing their hearts out in the heat.
The sun was finally out majority of the day so we made our way to the beach. Platja del Bogatell had beach volleyball and some cute restaurants on the beachside. We decided to just lie down and take in the sun and do nothing else. The clouds did roll in after a few hours so we left and walked around. Since it was the weekend and also a holiday, the streets were filled with so many cute families and people going to the movies.
We went to Xemei for dinner (early celebration of my birthday). My friend had recommended this Italian restaurant in Barcelona and it did not let us down. We got the Fish assortment to start and I got the Pappardelle with beef cheek ragu and Winnie got the Grilled octopus tentacle with eggplant. We finished off with Almond and orange ice cream and tiramisu.