My time in Barcelona, Spain has unfortunately come to an end (thus the writing of this post). Whereas this is much to my dismay, my wallet and cholesterol level are probably jumping for joy. The city is equal parts foodie paradise, beach town, historical port city, vacation destination, and architectural marvel; all combined with the passion for life and the late-night revelry that the Spanish enjoy (seriously, they stay up until well past 3-4am, sleep in until mid-day, take a siesta in the afternoon, and then repeat the cycle — I couldn’t begin to keep up).
Whereas there are many different avenues you can take to explore Barcelona, my plan of attack was typically to wake up, explore the city by foot for a few hours, end up at the beach for most of the rest of the waking day, and then absolutely gorge myself at the amazing tapas bars and restaurants for the remainder of the night. I know, I know…this is a tough life that I’m living, but someone has to do it.
As mentioned above, Barcelona is home to several architectural showpieces that elevate the city’s status and draw in tourists from all over the world. The most historic section of town is known as the Gothic Quarter, which was a formely walled-in section of the city dating back to the 13th century. This area is a maze of winding medeival steets, alleys, and public squares, with the culmination being the “Cathedral.”
The other significant architectural neighborhood is what is known as the Quadrat d’Or, or the Golden Square, all of which is part of the Eixample district and is often refered to as an open-air museum. This section houses many examples of the Modernisme movement, which originated in Catalonia (this region of Spain) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and through which many of its greatest manifestations were arguably architectural works. The pieces were completed by the likes of Domenech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch, but the most famous by a landslide is Antoni Gaudi, and for good reason.
And by the way, did I mention there was a beach? Because if I didn’t, then I go ahead and say it: there was a beach!!!
A few years ago, Anthony Bourdain mentioned on his show that Barcelona may have overtaken Paris as the new culinary captial of the world. I personally haven’t spent enough time traveling to confirm or deny that assertion, but I can say that this is one of the best towns to eat in that I’ve ever had the luxury to experience (aside from Columbus, that is, which will always be number one in my book). And now that we’ve all regained our energy from sunning ourselves and listening to the waves crash ashore, it’s time to check out that culinary scene.
The first stop, as has been the on-going trend in my travels, is to biggest and most diverse local market that I can find. In this case, it happened to be a place called “La Boqueria” and was located just off of La Rambla. And by the way, here in Spain, Jamon (ham that has been dried and aged for several years) is king:
I did pull myself away from the beach one afternoon to try one of the typical touristy meals by the waterfront (see below). And feel free to give me a bit of grieft, but touristy things are usually touristy for a reason: they are worth leaving home for.
When dining our for the evening (which folks don’t seem to do until around 10pm at night at the earliest), I was a bit more in my element. It can be a bit overwheming, though, trying to choose 1 place out of the myriad of outdoor cafes and tapas bars. My trick, in this case, was to walk around, passing dozens of empty or slightly filled tapas bars until I found the one that was overflowing with people. Usually, the locals know where to go, so the last thing I would do is go against their good taste.
And to elaborate a tad further, the Spanish concept of a tapas bar — or a place that serves a series of small dishes – is intended for a whole group of people to enjoy, as they can order basically everything and just pass plates around, having a bite of this and a bite of that. Being a solo traveler without a group to dine with, one might think I would be at a bit of a disadvantage here. However, the waiters and fellow patrons certainly didn’t count on my ability to stuff large amounts of delicious seafood down my into my gullet, so I think I held my own quite admirably. You can be the judge:
And with that, I’m spent (and too full to move). My next activity is museum hopping in Spain’s captial city, Madrid. Until then, Salud!