It's my birthday and i think i'm in love. I'm twenty, (what does that mean?) and I have found something in Barcelona i think i like too much to leave. I don't know what it is but to quote Carlon Ruiz Zafon, Barcelona is a woman, an 'enchantress'. If you look passed the tourists it's mysterious, yet homely. If you like all things weird and wonderful, come here if you're looking for inspiration. The most normal things, which are conventionally daily and boring, are interesting at the very least, if not works of craft. Even street benches are positioned with a purpose, toilets are imaginative and telecommunications towers are tall sculptures designed by keen architects. The most striking thing though, is that the city is a mixture of skyscrapers, medieval gothic buildings as well as colourful modernista structures - you know one of those cocktails that you can't describe because everything has been poured into one hell of a glass. Curvy meets straight, bright meets glum and eerie - this is the colour and shape of Barcelona.
You can divide Barcelona into 7 parts, and we've decided to spend each day in a different section;
1. Barceloneta & the Waterfront
2. La Rambla & Barri Gotic
3. El raval
4. La Ribera
5. La Sagrada Familia & L'Eixample
6. Park Guell, La Zona Alta & Gracia
Our First Day - Rambla & Barri Gotic
I'm travelling with my ma, something i've never really done before. It's a shame because she's such a wonderful spirit. We make trips to visit family (usually to take care of them) but that's pretty much it. This week is selfishly our own. At dawn we were in Barcelona because we had a five hour flight delay. We hopped onto a night bus that took us into the city. Already we felt like we're walking through a film, or someone's story. The place was still hidden under blue and grey, since it was only 5am, but it was strangely inviting. We struggled against sleep, but eventually we agreed it would be a good idea to find our hotel and rest. The next morning (after little sleep) i left my bed to look outside and when i turned back round, there sat a present next to my pillow. I remembered it was my birthday, and with childish excitement i pulled out a slate of glass that was coloured with window paints. My ma made a glass painting of us in Barcelona, to eternalise our trip. She also stuck a birthday candle into a Lindt chocolate, and reminded me to make a wish. We had the best morning, and walked around Barceloneta and the seaside, buying fruit on the way. Beaches, wide, sundrenched boulevards, palm trees and random sculptures on the sand. Full of sunseekers and the smell of seafood cooking in garlic. We ended up in the Rambla & Barri Gotic area by midday. We strolled La Rambla, and although it's always packed it reminds me of a moving carnival. We left the Rambla to follow a narrow side lane, and it was here that we found a hidden plaza, Placa Reial - it has remained my favourite. It's a pretty square, and we stopped for iced coffee and tapas at Ocana. It's a place with edge, and interesting decor. Here you'll find very (VERY) good potatas bravas, and a very generous portion too. We also indulged in a pot of seafood ceviche, with octopus, prawns, raw fish, coriander, pineapple, sweetcorn, red onion, bright red peppercorns… and the list could go on. No idea what the sauce was made from. We sat under an olive tree, and my birthday hours went by us.
When the sun lowered and it was cooler, we set off to wander. The best thing you can do here is get lost. We explored the Jewish Quarters, Roman buildings and sat in front of the Cathedral which glimmers in the dark. Here people play Spanish guitars and it's here that you can get a good feel of Barcelona and know what it's all about. Everything is scenic. Looming Gothic treasures and architectural gems that are enlivened with street buskers. We ate watermelon gelato, and just watched. We spent the night exploring further and we reached Gaudi's Casa Batlo. It too sparkles at nighttime. It's known as one of the strangest residential buildings in Europe, with window frames and balconies that look like bones and walls that are sprinkled with bits of blue, mauve and green ceramics. Everything is dreamy, swirly and curvy. Waves of wood and coloured glass. Gaudi said that nothing in life is straight, therefore his work is one of bended lines. We then walked through Barcelona in the direction of our temporary home, stopping to look at new finds. Our first day was over at 1am when we got back, we made two teas and like children, were too excited to go to sleep.
Everything has been a good dream so far (you can even buy chocolate popcorn) and i just don't want hometime to come.
At Gatwick; Easyjet funded all our food since we had a five hour flight delay. Armadillo is good, the pecan, cranberry and white chocolate pie is...let's just say i'd recommend it.
Rambla and Barri Gotic
Largest book i've ever seen
People relax on Placa Catalunya, under the fountains
Even the pavement has been thought through..
A quote on La Rambla & Barri Gotic from the best guide book EVER - whoever wrote it is truly in love with the city and i'm so glad i own a copy:
"Packed with historic treasures, Barri Gotic is one of Europe's most atmospheric neighbourhoods. Its tangle of narrow lanes and tranquil plazas lie amid Roman ruins, medieval churches and converted palaces, with history lurking around every lamplit corner...La Rambla is Spain's most talked about boukevard. It certainly packs a lot of colour into a short walk, with flower stands, historic buildings, a sensory-rich food market, overpriced beers, tourist tat and a ceaselessly changing parade of people from all corners of the globe. Once a river and sewage ditch on the edge of medieval Barcelona..."