I am not a city person, but Barcelona has to be one of my favourite cities. I would rather be there than London or New York. I am still deciding about Paris. So maybe it is my favourite city.
It’s one of the few cities where you walk looking up. I can, and do, walk for hours just absorbing the sights, smells and culture of the “City of Wonders” The architectural details on the tall buildings are stunning, and every building is different. We spend hours walking through Las Ramblas with its narrow side streets. Everywhere there are tiny stores crammed with hip merchandise. There are chic restaurants and cafes filled with the young and hip, spilling out on to the streets. Then there are the not so chic tiny narrow cafes selling coffee and baguettes to the older and not so hip locals and tourists on a budget. Periodically the tiny streets open up into a square, often with a small playground in the middle, and always surrounded by well preserved buildings climbing up 6 and 7 stories, the ground floors devoted to cafes and the upper floors to those luckier enough to have an apartment . And in the centre of all this there is La Boqueria, an old style market hall full of mouthwatering food stalls. Some selling fish so fresh that they appear to be still gasping their last breath, crabs and lobsters trying to crawl off the counter , and all sorts of shell fish still smelling of the Mediterranean. Next to them are butchers, charcuteries, and produce stalls piled high with assorted fruit and vegetables. It is a visual feast interspersed with tiny restaurants where you stand at the bar and order up a real feast
We have booked a room at the Hesperia Hotel, a small 3 star Boutique Hotel, undeniably hip, and perfectly situated on a narrow side street a hundred yards from the main street of Las Ramblas and 100 yards from La Boqueria. It is quiet and reasonable, the perfect place for our one night stay.
From here we head off to Casa Battlo, the only World Heritage Site built by Antoni Gaudi that we haven’t seen before. Barcelona is perhaps most famous for being the home of Antoni Gaudi and indeed boasts an incredible number of World Heritage Sites built by him. The house is a dreamlike interpretation of an underwater world, and rather than try to describe it, I will let you enjoy some photos
We have so little time to do everything we want as the next day we have to be on board ship by mid afternoon. Gordon wants to see how the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished Cathedral, is coming along. While he does that, I decide to explore the Gothic neighborhood, next to Las Ramblas, and visit the Palau De La Musica, one of my favourite buildings with it’s incredible tiled columns, and stained glass windows, but when I get there it is closed.
The Gothic neighborhood was originally enclosed by the old City Walls, very little of which is still standing. Nowadays it is basically just an extension of the Las Ramblas neighborhood, but with even more varied and interesting architecture. I stumble across the Church of Santa Anna, a church I have not seen before. It is beautifully decorated with murals, and unlike the nearby, crowded, and much more famous Church of Santa Maria , it is empty of tourists. One mural seems so out of place – painted presumably around 1930 , it depicts a series of young men dressed in different sporting outfits (football, etc) all posing as if for a photograph in their colourful shorts and tops. It looks like something out of a 1930’s annual rather than a decoration for a church.
I meet up with Gordon for lunch. He is full of enthusiasm for how much has been done to the Sagrada Familia since we last saw it, and the camera is full of his photos.