Thoughts on Barcelona

Tomorrow Indi heads home to London and I begin my solo travel – fist stop, San Sebastian, in Basque country on the northeast corner of the country (and also the food capital of Spain!). I thought it might be worthwhile to do a non-food oriented post, as evidence that I do things other than eat.

Barcelona was not quite what I expected. I envisioned the city and the people to be an extension of Gaudi’s architecture (lively, beautiful, stylish) and was probably subconsciously hoping to see Javier Bardem lookalikes. While I think Barcelona is a pretty nice place to live, it lacks the atmosphere I had hoped for. There doesn’t seem to be much of a buzz other than from the drunk tourists on La Rambla and the guys pickpocketing the drunk tourists. Also, the people are not generally well dressed and mostly look like they are going to the beach in clothes that do not fit. If you want a more authentic experience, don’t stay on La Rambla. Instead, try La Gracia or La Ribera, as these are neighborhoods where the Spaniards seem to spend their time and have far fewer want-to-be bohemian backpackers stumbling around.

On a positive note, the people are generally nice and friendly and I have not felt uncomfortable at all, despite the regular creeps that lurk in every tourist destination. As I mentioned, this does seem like a great city to call home and we really got to see a lot of it. The Metro system is great, but the city is also extremely walkable. Of course the Gaudi architecture is phenomenal, particularly Sagrida Familia, an unfinished church. Gaudi worked on the church from 1883 till his death in 1926. The church is still under construction today and isn’t expected to be finished for another 30 years. It is a pretty interesting history and I suggest you read about it.

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We also took a day trip to Girona, to the northeast of Barcelona. Girona has a rich Jewish history (the Jewish quarter is well preserved and dates back to the ninth century) and also a beautiful cathedral that is both Gothic and Romanesque.

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The (?), The Bad, and The Ugly

We got off to a great start with food in Barcelona, but over the last 36 hours we experienced some underwhelming, if not disgusting, meals. I advise that you never go to a tapas restaurant where you serve yourself by choosing individual items lined along a bar and are charged by the toothpick (one is stuck in each gross piece of bread with an even more gross topping, see photo below). We also had some less than average paella last night, but today were told that it is much better to eat paella for lunch in more seafood-oriented neighborhoods than where we were.

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Generally, we have been subsisting off of a pastry and a cortado (similar to a macchiato) for breakfast and a plain sandwich with cheese or cured meat for lunch to keep our costs down, and then having a nicer dinner. The coffee is good here and generally the food is not expensive. Today we went to La Boqueria, the market on La Rambla and near our hostal, to pick up some ingredients for a picnic. Below are some photos from the market.

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Also, as you may know, the Spanish are obsessed with ham, particularly Iberian ham, which is fatty, cured, and delicious.

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Tonight we are going to visit one of the few places we have not yet been, a neighborhood called Barcelonetta, which should have some decent seafood and a more local vibe.