As tourist traps go, Barcelona isn’t quite as crowded as Paris or Rome can be, but Marcus and I still experienced our share of being jostled around by thousands of our fellow travelers over the past few days. Being located in the city center came with its difficulties, but we also got to easily see some of the neatest places in town. All in all, I had a fun time exploring a city and culture unique from any other place I’ve visited. Barcelona scrambles the look of typical European streets with the kitschy beachy atmosphere of Florida towns, and then adds in a touch of Gaudi architecture to make it all its own. Very strange, but very cool.
For our first night, we strolled down the Ramblas, which is the main drag of all shopping and touristy markets that leads straight to the water’s edge. I could have sat on a bench and people-watched all night, but Marcus reminded me that we had places to be. On the recommendation of a friend who recently studied in Barcelona, we checked out a theme bar called Espit Chupitos, which exclusively serves specialty shots. We watched patrons toast marshmallows over flaming drinks and down all sorts of other combinations. We even tried a few ourselves before calling it a night.
On Sunday, we started out our cultural tour by visiting the Museu Xocolate, or the Chocolate Museum. Barcelona was one of the first European cities to popularize the drinking and eating of chocolate imported from the Americas, and so the museum highlighted the history of chocolate’s industrialization and production. Best of all, we got a little taste of the stuff after the tour. Best hot chocolate of my life.
Next, we moved on to the Picasso Museum. I’ll admit it- I’ve never been a huge fan of Pablo’s work. I always thought it was creatively imagined but poorly executed, because I assumed his famously abstract style was a result of his technical inability to reproduce a subject realistically. After seeing the rest of his work, I am a changed woman.
Picasso started out doing lifelike portraits and landscapes in oil, and later moved on to his signature Cubism. Maybe he decided that detail wasn’t necessary to effectively recreate a subject on canvas; maybe he got fed up with the whole process of painting itself and wanted to simplify it. Either way, I loved it. After seeing the evolution of his work and his countless studies of other artists’ masterpieces, I am proud to call myself a Picasso lover. Definitely my favorite part of all of Barcelona.
Monday morning found us wandering around the northern end of the city, taking an unofficial tour of Antoni Gaudi’s most famous architectural constructs. Gaudi spent a lifetime covering Barcelona in his distinctive Modernist parks and buildings, so you can’t go far without stumbling upon one of his colorful mosaic benches or melting lampposts. We checked out Park Guëll and the yet-unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral before ending our day beachside. A quick toe dip in the cold Mediterranean Sea was enough for us to say we’d done it, and we made it back to the hotel with just enough time to catch the Queen’s Jubilee before heading to bed.
This morning, we flew to blustery Dublin, Ireland, where I feel quite at home already. More updates and photos to come soon. Cheers from the homeland!