Okay, I’m finally buckling down and reporting on Barcelona. It’s been a few weeks, but for the next two hours I’m stuck in a classroom while other people give presentations to our professor, who doesn’t seem to care whether we listen or watch a movie on our laptops. So here goes nothing…
We began our trip with fervor: arriving late at night after being lost for about an hour, we settled into our hostel quickly and set out to find some food and a bar. After enjoying a few drinks over candlelight, we headed back to recharge for the next day. Good thing we did, because it was a whirlwind day of exploring and experiencing.
Port Olimpic/the Waterfront
Aah, the ocean! I hadn’t seen it in about 4 months, and how refreshing it was. I have always had a hunch that having the name “Marina” has made me forever loyal to the seaside, and I feel unfaithful when I am away from it for too long. Parked in the marina were some of the most beautiful boats I have seen, and several that looked race-ready. An Australian ship that was stopping by offered a glimpse at people wearing Aigle sailing boots, another part of my daily St. Mary’s life that I haven’t seen since last spring. The sun was shining down on me, the water was beautifully blue, and the breeze was perfect. It felt cool, calm, clean, and crisp – pardon the quadruple alliteration, but it was too perfect to pass up! This was my favorite part of the city, I could have spent all 4 days there and been perfectly content.
We continued our day with an early lunch at La Boqueria. No, this is not some fancy restaurant, but a covered market off of La Rambla (the main street running through Barcelona) that offers not only meats, fish, cheese, and fruit, but small tapas bars scattered throughout the market that serve up cheap and quick meals complemented by glasses of refreshing sangria. Being the food fanatics that we are, Shaun and I went to town, and for under 10 Euro (combined) we had a menage of good eats that constituted a delicious, if not traditional, lunch. We tried a platter of fried seafood that included eel and calamari, as well as fried fish on a stick (my favorite), slices of manchego cheese, and fruit smoothies made from real, actual, fruit. Unlike the noisy, chaotic markets of Paris, la Boqueria is well organized into sections, with neat, well-structured vendors who are friendly and accommodating (another contrast to Paris). This might have been my favorite part of the trip, to be honest: as much as I love exploring the cultural gems of a city, I can never pass up cheap food that is not only authentic but delicious.
Arc de Triomfe
From La Boqueria we walked to Barcelona’s Arc de Triomfe, just to compare it to Paris’ famous landmark. I loved it! It was smaller and more genuine looking that Paris’ imposing structure, and was surrounded by palm trees and sunlight and a man playing the Spanish guitar. I was pleased by its quaint, humble beauty, and prefer its architecture to that of the Arc de Triomphe. It was also more pedestrian friendly – there was a lovely park in front of it where people roller-bladed, rode bikes, strolled holding hands, and played music.
Shaun and I stumbled upon this park on our walk from the Arc de Triomfe, and later discovered that we had happened upon one of Barcelona’s most famous parks (a true testament to our independent exploring skills: we left for Barcelona without having researched at all the sightseeing). Park Ciutadella is huge, and boasts one of Gaudi’s creations, a fountain whose name I forget. It was beautiful, and unlike the coldly calculated fountains of Paris, Gaudi’s structure felt as though you had discovered an ancient Mayan ruin or some other exotic world. We stopped for pictures, of course, and climbed the several steps to the top to see the park from a bird’s eye view. Lovely, just lovely. We digressed from our intense exploration for a while, strolling mindlessly and sitting on the benches for a rest. We enjoyed some bread and cheese, and Shaun played with the bike that he had found lying abandoned in the park. It was a true lazy afternoon, drenched in sunlight and anticipation of more discoveries.