Barcelona: A Different Kind of Spanish
As I write this, Barcelona is pegged as the pick-pocket capital of the world (or is it just of Europe?) – either way my point is that when I went at the turn of the century, it wasn’t really an issue.
My friend and I had driven without a clue from Paris in our rented Renault but little did we know Spain would surprise us in more ways than one.
Before heading to Barcelona, we visited the resort town of Tossa de Mar – where our car had disappeared. It’s at this time that I came face to face with the brutal reality that we were in a different kind of Spain – we were in Catalonia.
I already knew Spaniards pronounced certain words differently (ex: policia is pronounced polithia) but I didn’t know this part of Spain actually had its own language. Keeping this newly-found knowledge in mind along with my two years of university-level Spanish, I managed to explain to a random store owner that our car had disappeared. He kindly directed us to the police station (!) where we were told it had been towed because we had parked in a restricted zone. We were relieved it wasn’t stolen but equally pissed-off that we had to pay for a ticket (I mean I could’ve used that money to buy fun stuff like shoes).
After our scare in Tossa de Mar, we drove to Barcelona settling in for a few days. We had finally arrived in the city of the modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. Some of his most famous architectural works of art could be seen just by simply taking a leisurely stroll along an otherwise unassuming street. Barcelona is the utmost definition of an open-air museum.
The first of Gaudi’s works we visited was Park Güell. I was in total awe at the magnificence of Park Güell – thousands upon thousands of ceramic pieces thoughtfully and meticulously arranged in endless mosaic designs. Covering curvacious benches, cartoon-like colossades and even entire ceilings, the genius that was Gaudí was made evident. I could’ve spent a whole day there and then some. Park Güell is most definitely worthy of its ranking as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
(This is part of my Early Travel Series hence the grainy photos – see more in Destinations)
If Park Güell doesn’t satisfy your need for incredible creativity and architecture then let me introduce you to La Sagrada Familia – an indescribable stroke of absolute genius. A mix of gothic and art nouveau architectural styles, this church designed by the local phenomenon Gaudí, is unbelievably strange, intriguing and haunting.
Construction of La Sagrada Familia started in 1882 and it continues until this day. A masterful accomplishment – it gives the impression it’s made of melting wax – there really is no other like it anywhere in the world.
Aside from all the Gaudí greatness scattered around Barcelona, it’s also a shopping haven namely on La Rambla. Composed of a series of pedestrian streets all wonderfully lined with store after store just begging for your pesetas (the then-currency now your Euros are most welcome). And to make it even more irresistible, we were there in August when end-of-season sales were plastered on every window of nearly every shop – hello shopping, good-bye pesetas!
After doing the some of the mandatory tourist sites in Barcelona (and some shopping….ahem), we took a day trip to Sitges – a resort town about 35 km away. The streets were overflowing with restaurants and bars; this was definitely a party town but its historical old town center attracted a more mature crowd saving it from being overrun by boozed-up teenagers. And bonus – there was also a beach as one would expect on the Costa Brava.
Amazing architecture, amazing shopping, amazing history – Barcelona was a triple threat and I loved it! With all that Barcelona has to offer it’s no wonder it’s still one of the most visited cities in Europe.
Have you been to Barcelona or any of its surrounding resort towns? Were you also in awe of Gaudí’s creations?