In fact, Chris and I are lucky that both of our parents made plans to meet us at different points along our trip. Mom & Dad Wallman chose Barcelona while Mom & Dad Barbier chose Southern Italy!
Our Barcelona trip began with an overnight flight from Johannesburg to Zurich with a quick morning connection to BCN (as it is commonly called). We rented an apartment through Flipkey at 25 Regomir in a neighborhood called Barri Gotic which is the oldest part of the city. While crowded with locals and tourists alike, Barri Gotic is incredibly charming, filled with small winding streets lined with all sorts of interesting shops. We were just minutes away from the Cathedral, the famous Picasso Museum, La Rambla, the major shopping district and tons of little bars & restaurants.
Our apartment was a nice size and we got a great rate compared to what hotels go for in the area. We had a living room/kitchen (with washer/dryer!), bedroom and modern bathroom. The apartment was an interior unit so it didn't face the street, but that meant it was quiet, which is important because people dine around 11pm and party all night in BCN. The only complaint I had about the apartment was that it faced an interior courtyard and the people below us smoked out their window all the time. The smell would wander into our unit - sometimes as early as 6am. Gross. I quickly remembered I was in Europe and cigarette smoke is simply inescapable.
The day after we arrived we called Mom & Dad at their hotel which was located in the Plaza Espanya (in Barcelona they speak Catalan which is a bit different from the Castillian Spanish we are used to. So instead of España with a tilde over the n, they spell it with a y). Thus began 3 days of sightseeing on foot! Before this trip, I had been to Barcelona twice over 10 years ago and it's one of my favorite cities. However this was the first time my parents and Chris had ever visited, so we had a lot of ground to cover. Here are some of the highlights:
Gaudi: Sagrada Familia & Park Guell
Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) is an architect from the Catalan region of Spain, known for his unique style that incorporated various materials including ceramics, glass, stone and iron work. Most of his great works are located in Barcelona, including his most famous project - a basilica called the Sagrada Familia (technically it's not a cathedral as it does not seat a bishop) . Gaudi was hit by a train in 1926 and died at the age of 73, when the Sagrada Familia was only a quarter of the way through construction. He left detailed plans, however construction progressed slowly because it relied on private donations which were interrupted during the Spanish Civil War. Construction began again in the 1950's but was slow going, and by 2010 construction of the basilica had only reached it's midpoint. Currently they expect it to be completed by 2026 - the centennial of Gaudi's death. It's too difficult to describe this work of art in words - it's like nothing I've ever seen before. It seems to be made from a dream and after seeing it for the third time, I'm still in awe that Gaudi was able to materialize his vision out of stone and glass.
Plaça d'Espanya (Plaza Espana) is a beautiful, yet busy, plaza. It's beautiful because of the Italian-styled building called the Palau Nacional. In this building you'll find the National Museum of Art of Catalunya. Leading up to the palace is a series of fountains which dance to three different types of music every night from Thursday-Sunday. They are called the the Magic Fountains. Chris and I missed the show on Sunday but my parents saw it and said it was spectacular! We walked from the plaza up the palace stairs and into the botanical gardens.
From the National Museum of Art of Catalunya we walked to the Olympic Park & Montjuïc where you can view beautiful views of the city and, if you are up for it, tour the old fort. We were pretty tired (and hot) by the time we reached the top of Montjuïc so we skipped the fort, stopped for a cafe con leche and then took the cable car down to Barceloneta for lunch.
When I visited Barcelona while I was studying in Spain, I didn't even know Barceloneta existed! Barceloneta is home to the city's beach and boardwalk. It's a bit of a walk to the city's main attractions but if it's summer and you like the beach, this neighborhood would be a great option to look for a hotel. If you can swing a room at the W, you should go for it. It looks awesome!!
Another nice little walk in Barcelona is through the Arc de Triumf to the Parc del Ciutadella. Afterwards, stop in the neighboring area of el Borne for lunch!
I can't write about Barcelona without talking about the culture & fashion. When you visit, you will find that people here don't sleep much. Dinner starts around 10:30/11pm and they tend to stay out all night. When I was studying in Spain this was easy, as I was just 20 years old. I figured this time around we'd be in bed by 11pm! I was wrong. While we were exhausted after a full day of walking and went back to our apartment around 7pm, we ended up going back out for dinner at 10:30pm (for really great reasons which I'll explain in a future post). It's still light out at 10pm and, well, you just get used it.
The fashion in BCN is also worth noting. I love the shops in Spain. LOVE. It was really hard refraining from shopping on this trip, but since I'm traveling with a backpack, I really have no room for new stuff. I did, however, admire the fashion from afar. Everyone is very bohemian, especially in Barri Gotic and El Borne. There are so many cute boutiques worth exploring. I highly recommend visiting these neighborhoods if you are looking for a few new interesting pieces!