Barcelona is hands down one of my favorite places. I was lucky enough to study abroad there for a summer in college, and it was one of the best times of my life. The food is delicious, the weather is fabulous, and there is no shortage of beaches or fresh sangria. So needless to say I was definitely looking forward to going back and revisiting some of my favorite spots. Also, my host family from last time was nice enough to let Toby and I stay there a couple of nights, so I got to have a reunion with them!
We arrived Thursday night and met up with my host sister Laura and went back to her place for a fantastic dinner- fresh guacamole, Spanish tortilla, olives, cheese, meat and more. And for dessert they had my favorite cheese in the entire world, Mató, which is tastes amazing served with honey and walnuts! We took it easy the rest of the night since we had 4 busy days ahead of us!
We stared off day one by walking through Park Guell and enjoying the beautiful view of the city it offers. Then we explored Gracia (the neighborhood my host family lives in), which is probably my favorite area of Barcelona, with lots of beautiful streets lined with shops and cafes. We wandered around for several hours and I got to show Toby where I lived last time, some places I hung out with my friends, and I even got a novel at the used English book store I discovered last time I was there. We popped over to Sagrada Familia as well, but decided not to go in as the lines were very long.
Then we made our way to the Gothic quarter, another cool area of the city, where I stumbled upon this store I found last time I was there and I got to get some bracelets to replace the ones I lost years ago. It amazed me how many of my favorite spots I just happened upon without even trying to. The one place I actually tried to find (this tiny little tapas restaurant I adore) we went by twice and both times it was closed . I took that as a sign I should stop looking for things and just see what comes our way.
Eventually we made our way down to the beach where we decided to get some cocktails at one of the beachfront restaurants. They are literally built right on top of the sand, and the food is usually pretty decent, even though it comes from these tiny open air kitchens.
By this point we hade done a lot of walking, so we made our way back to Gracia for dinner with Laura, her mother, and grandmother, where we had a very tasty homemade salmon quiche!
Day two I woke up not feeling well, turns out the bad cold Toby had finally got passed on to me So that put a bit of a damper on things, but even a cold can´t ruin a day in Barcelona. We said goodbye to my host family and headed down to where we were staying the next few nights, which was right off the beach in La Barceloneta (the neighborhood in the city that´s right along the sea).
We met our host, who was awesome and suggested a local seafood restaurant for lunch. There we got their seafood paella which was very fresh and well seasoned, definitely much better than what you find at the tourist traps that are lined up on the main streets (when looking for good food, I suggest going off the main streets, especially in Barceloneta or near La Rambla). Then we spent the rest of the day renting some lounge chairs at the beach and got some dinner there as well.
Day three we did a “free” walking tour, which is something I would absolutely suggest doing anytime you are in a city that offers one. I think there are several companies that do these types of tours; we did the one by Sandemens and loved it! Basically you meet up with a group of fellow tourists and just give your email address (for surveys etc…) and then you get taken around the city by someone who can give you the back stories on all the old churches and buildings that you saw but had no idea what they were. We learned a lot about the history of Barcelona and Catalonia in general. It rained for most of the tour, but that still didn’t stop it from being a great way to spend the afternoon- which should say something for the quality. At the end of the tour you tip the guide whatever you think the tour was worth.
Later that night we went to Plaça d’Espanya and saw one of my favorite attractions, the Magic Fountains. It`s kind of like a miniature version of the Bellagio Fountains, with the water and lights synced to the music. Definitely a wonderful way to spend an hour in the evening, just don´t get too close or you´ll get sprayed!
On our last day in the city we decided to venture a bit outside the center to a quieter beach. It´s actually pretty easy to do this; you just take the metro to the one of the stations where you can grab a train. It cost us only around 10 Euros and only took about 20 minutes by train to arrive at a very clean and peaceful beach called Ocata. We had plenty of space to ourselves, and unlike in the city, you don’t have people walking around constantly trying to sell you beer/scarves/massages etc… We spent hours enjoying the sun and then got a tasty lunch at a beachside café. Then we spent the next couple of hours just enjoying the view and a pitcher of Sangria. Ahhh I wish I could go back already, as I sit here writing this in Munich the wind is blowing and you definitely cannot spend anytime outside without a jacket.
After making our way back into the city we ventured out to this cool area called Passeig de Born, which has lots of restaurants and cafes, in search of one last delicious meal. In Barcelona you often get handed free drink tickets and other flyers when you are out at night, and you never really know if the place is going to be good or a waste of money. We decided to take a chance at one of the places they were advertising though, mainly because it was a crepe place and I LOVE crepes. Thankfully this turned out to be a great choice; they had fantastic cocktails, including one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had. Also, if you ordered a savory crepe and a cocktail you got a dessert crepe for free, so I was definitely a fan. It was a perfect way to spend our last night in the city.
Even though I spent most of this trip with an annoying cold, it was still an amazing four days, and I can´t wait to explore even more of the city whenever I get a chance to go back! I´m so glad I got to see my old host family and practice a little bit of Spanish (key word little, my Spanish was never great, but after 3 years of not speaking it I probably made absolutely no sense when I talked). And Toby liked Barcelona so much he decided he wants to learn Spanish and try and study abroad in Spain. Guess we´ll see how that goes!