It was once a place I could only imagine in my head; lively, colorful, and bold. It was that and so much more.
We arrived on a Friday morning after a long and mostly sleepless flight, greeted by sunshine and a cool breeze. Excitement was the drug keeping me awake. I was in Spain.
These were my companions: Sarah (Winemaker and bestie), Gail (Sarah’s mom and friend), Marcus (Sarah’s nephew and newest friend of mine who I adore), Doralice (dear friend), Teri, (friend and Wine Club Manager), Rebecka (Winemaker and friend), and Dennis (Rebecka’s husband and friend).
The hotel check-in time was 3pm and as it was still morning we dropped our bags and went for a walk. Within blocks of the hotel were two of Antoni Gaudí’s most famous buildings; Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. For those that don’t know, Gaudí “is considered the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism and one of the leading lights of the Art Nouveau movement in Europe, despite his architecture evolving into such a personal style that is rather difficult to classify.” (Giordano, Carlos, NicolÃ¡s Palmisano, and Ricard RegÃ s. Visual Guide to the Complete Work of Architect Antoni GaudÃ. Barcelona: Dos De Arte, 2015. Print.)
We decided on a tour of Casa Batlló, but first we were hungry. Rebecka, with a travel guidebook in hand, directed us to Tapas 24, which was in the neighborhood. We arrived a little before they were ready to begin lunch service, but they said they would serve us if we were okay with a limited menu. That was fine with us. My first meal in Barcelona did not disappoint. It was simple food; pan con tomate (toasted bread with tomato and huevos rotos (broken eggs with potatoes and sausage). Delicious is an understatement. Perhaps it was because I was in Barcelona, perhaps it was delirium from lack of sleep, perhaps it was hunger, or perhaps it was the olive oil, but I was so happy.
Casa Batlló was once the private home of the Batlló family. In 1904 Joseph Batlló contracted the services of Gaudí to construct a new building at the site of a building built in 1877. Batlló wanted the building torn down and a new one designed by Gaudí, but Gaudí convinced Batlló to renovate the existing structure. Two more levels were added along with a completely new facade. The end result was a work of art, complete with eight private rental apartments and a roof terrace.
With our hotel room still not quite ready, our group split up. Sarah and I hopped on the “on and off bus” knowing we could see much of the city in a relatively short amount of time. We had no intention of getting off the bus. We were weary and killing time and thought this a good way to see the highlights of the city. We plugged in the English headset, put them on our ears and then struggled with heavy eyelids and nodding heads. Two hours later, we checked into our room, but then promptly made our way to the roof.
Jetlagged and blissed out, we sat sipping wine and taking in the entire city that we had only two and a half days to explore. For me, it didn’t matter what we did or where we went. It was all new to me and I knew I would be delighted with whatever was chosen. If I am unfamiliar with an area and someone else isn’t, then I prefer they take the reins. Just tell me what time to be ready. I did very little research before this trip because I knew I didn’t need to. I wanted to be surprised. I know that I am an easy traveler, low maintenance, and possess a ridiculous childlike wonder when it comes to knew experiences. I’m known to do happy dances.
Dinner that night was at Cervecería Catalana, highly recommended as the best Tapas in Barcelona. The wait was long, but so worth it. I can’t remember everything we ate, but these thinly sliced fried artichokes quickly became a favorite dish of mine in Spain.
After a good night’s sleep, Sarah and I began our day with a run down to the water. We were out of the hotel before 8am. The streets were so quiet and unoccupied. I loved running by the small shops that were just beginning their day, but not quite open. There were a few elderly folks out for a morning stroll before the city awoke, and the smell of fresh baked goods and coffee kept hitting our noses, tempting us to forget about the run.
Our excursions continued to be about Gaudí. He is so pervasive in this glorious city and with so little time, we wanted to see the stand outs. After the run, our group gathered to visit Park Güell. This is a 42-acre public park that Gaudí designed beginning in 1900. It’s a combination of landscaping and architectural elements. We walked the paths to the top of Carmel Hill and enjoyed another beautiful view of the city.
From there we were in for an amazing treat. By way of a friend’s recommendation, Doralice took us to Entrepanes Díaz for lunch. It was a tiny place off the beaten path, which most likely serves locals more than tourists. Incidentally, Doralice speaks Spanish, which I’m certain was a relief to the gentleman that greeted our gang at the door. We were the first to arrive, as it was still a bit early, but he was warm and welcoming. The food was excellent and the memory of that place is one of my favorites from the entire trip.
After lunch we went to what is considered to be Gaudí’s most famous work, La Sagrada Familia, an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family. Gaudí toiled 43 years on this project, but died in 1926 at the age of 73, before it could be completed. Construction did not resume until 1954, and still it is not completed, but it is considered a masterpiece of world art. We were all in awe, from the moment we saw it from the street upon our arrival, to the moment we departed in our taxi. In fact, curiosity took hold from the rooftop of our hotel with its spires towering above the city skyline.
Saturday night took us out of the city to Codorníu for a private tour and dinner with the entire wine club. Codorníu is the oldest Cava producer in Spain. The winery dates back to 1551. As much as I would have liked to have one more evening on the town in Barcelona, this was a wonderful experience and I’m very glad that were were able to visit a place so rich in history.
Tomorrow we set sail.