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Trip Report Barcelona Serendipity

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First time in Barcelona - quite simply a matter of I came, I saw and I was conquered!

We took the TGV at 7.15am from Paris on a rather wet and cold July morning and reached a gloriously sunny Barcelona in the afternoon. We stayed at the a-bit-hard-to-spot Mercer (in the El Born/Barri Gotic area) in a two bedroom apartment with a kitchenette. It was comfortable for our 5 nights and we didn’t cook at all. The staff there was excellent and most helpful. The area was central yet quaint and different - we discovered new lanes, stopped at various gelata places, small bakeries and just soaked in the feel of the old town.

We did do the hop on hop off turistica bus – bought online through the hotel at a 10% discount. It was ideal to get a good feel of the city layout, and used it to get to Park Guell (did not anticipate the uphill walk though), visit the Olympica and beaches. Walking in Barcelona - the Barri Gotic, Las Ramblas or Park Guell, Montjuic, the beaches past Columbus - a combination of sun, sea breeze, sangria/cava, good food and friendly people - made for a relaxed holiday. People were friendly and service was good, and we felt at ease roaming though alert for pickpockets.

As suggested on this forum, I had booked ahead for the Sagrada Familia and the nativity tower tours. Having been to some of the most acclaimed and beautiful churches in Europe, I really didn’t have great expectations for the SF. So, I was unprepared for the beauty of the interiors (the stained glass, the massive tree pillars, appearance of Christ); the intricacies on the doors, the Passion façade; to be able to hear of the detailed planning/thought processes behind every little thing, and to simply experience the architectural marvel that is Sagrada Familia. In comparison, our later trips to Park Guell, Casa Batlo did not leave me spellbound as this Basilica did. As for the Picasso museum, I came away feeling that I have seen more compelling works of his elsewhere though some pieces were pure genius. I missed going to the Miro Foundacion as the kids were “museumed-out” after Paris and our Gaudi tours! I would have liked to watch a show but have now left that for our next Barcino trip.

We drove to Cadaques for a day – we rented from Over, a local company fixed by the hotel. Having never really seen the Mediterranean this close, I was struck by the blue, the many shades of blue that it has. Lunch was at a place by the sea where apparently Dali used to visit, wandered up the village cobblestoned narrow paths, homes in white and blue shuttered windows with red/magenta bougainvillea was idyllic despite the afternoon heat. Unfortunately, I had not pre-booked the Dali home visit and we couldn’t go in. But I was happy to just walk the grounds! On our way back, we stopped at the medieval town of Girona and explored it on foot ending for some decent pizza and pimiento and churros at the centre.

My paella experience wasn’t that great (in Girona/Cadaques) and besides, we were totally hooked on to tapas! Our concierge recommended Bar del Pla at Montcada Street and we revelled in the customer service and the pricing (especially after Paris)! These small eateries are completely booked out on weekends and the next time we wanted to go, there was no standing room even! We also enjoyed discovering various places including Tossa and El Barro, sometimes by simply asking around! It seemed we couldn’t go wrong with tapas in this city!

The highlight of our food journey was Tapeo at Montcada. We loved it so much that we went back on two consecutive days! The Crème Catalan, the Calamer (squid stuffed with the Spanish equivalent of ratatouille), the melt-in-your-mouth iberico ribs, scallops (I could go on and on) were delectable artisanal morsels that had us craving more. Accompanied by house-mixes (noted at a few other tapas places too where a couple of wines are “mixed”), we were in foodie heaven! My DH thinks this he has discovered the next Michelin star in Barcelona!

In summary, if Paris with its art collections is food for the soul, Barcelona earthy in comparison, proves again that the way to a man's heart is truly through the stomach!

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