My summer travels began with a short trip to Barcelona with Erik and Natalie. Since I have so many photos I’d like to share, I’ll be splitting this up into a few parts, so stay tuned for more!
Barcelona had been on my and Natalie’s travel wish list for years now – in fact, we had originally planned to go last summer, but instead went for a road trip through Normandy due to issues with my visa. Even though it wasn’t our first choice, I had an amazing time last summer driving through country roads and little villages in apple cider country and exploring Mont Saint Michel, which is magnificent.
This trip, on the other hand, was much louder, more colorful, and definitely sunnier. We didn’t do a ton of planning for Barcelona, so we missed some of the architectural gems (like Casa Batlló and Palau Guell), but taking it easy meant less stress, less sweat, and more time to relax and eat yummy Catalan cuisine.
Barcelona wouldn’t be Barcelona without Gaudí. He quite literally shaped the city with his weird and wonderful architecture. One of the highlights of our trip was Park Güell, a multileveled outdoor complex with open spaces, stone arches and passages, a shady covered colonnade, colorful tile mosaics, gardens, and structures that look like gingerbread houses. Having seen pictures, I half expected this place to feel like a cheesy theme park, but it was impressive! Despite its whimsical vibe, the place demanded respect.
It was quite a hike to reach this haven in the hills, but thankfully there was a long escalator for the steepest portion of the climb! There was a really lovely orange house nearby, I’m not sure, but it might have been one of the old homes built as part of this once privately-owned residential complex. I loved the garden section where I spotted some red hibiscus under a series of archways. Much of the vegetation here had that lovely olive-green color that is so characteristic of the Mediterranean.
The “monumental zone” of the park requires a time-specific ticket, which we purchased online the night before, but the surrounding park is free.
Although I somehow didn’t take a single picture of the markets, restaurants, or the food that we ate, I have to say it was the most enjoyable part of the trip for me. The Boqueria (main food market in the center of town) was insanely crowded with tourists, but still amazing. Fresh fruit juice, dried fruit and nuts (we bought ourselves some dried bananas and cashews to snack on throughout the trip), meat pies, pastries, gummy candy in all shapes and sizes, seafood, and pizza. We came back to the Boqueria repeatedly. Twice Erik opted for a slice of pizza from a little booth, and I can honestly say it was some of the best pizza I’ve had! Although, I haven’t eaten pizza in Italy yet…
The restaurants we went to were all excellent and authentic, and most of them were tapas-style. Not one of them felt like a tourist trap. We followed the recommendations of our Fodor’s guidebook, and I was pleasantly surprised with them. We mostly stayed near the center of the city since our apartment was near the El Raval neighborhood… although I should point out that certain streets in the lower section of El Raval can feel really grimy and a bit “rough.” But with all the tourists around and two friends near me, I felt safe. Some of my favorite dishes were croquettes (oh god, I loved the croquettes so much), green bean salad with pine nuts, toast slathered in fresh tomato pulp and olive oil, cured ham, and of course Sangria – we had a lot of Sangria. I’m not a huge seafood lover, but they do great seafood as well! Here are the places we ate:
Communal tables or bar seating with an open kitchen. So much fun to try all the little tapas! Lots of authentic classics here with a lively atmosphere.
Carrer de la Unió, 17
La Biblioteca Gourmande
Our server was extremely kind and helpful! The best thing on the menu are the honeyed croquettes. Get them.
Carrer de la Junta de Comerç, 28
American-style dishes but non-touristy and extremely tasty! I ate one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had here.
Carrer de la Riera Alta, 4-6
PS: people eat dinner SUPER LATE in Barcelona – around 9pm, but I was super happy to find that everything is cheaper in Spain! Most of our dinners cost a fraction of what it would have cost in Paris.