What do Montjuic Castle, Las Ramblas, a huge outdoor market, W Hotel, and Gaudi have in common? Fairly easy to answer: Barcelona, is where I spent my 30th birthday. What is it about people and turning a number greater than 2 that ends with a big 0 and needing to justify something to themselves by booking a random weekend trip to go and explore a new city to take their minds off of the fact that everyone gets older? Mini rant, which I shall stop now and move on to describe the beautiful distraction city – Barcelona.
Catalonians have a great sense of pride and that’s reflected in their fashion, architecture and restaurants. As we walked along in a neighbourhood called Las Ramblas, which by the way, is a must, we quickly started to see people care about what they wear and how they carry themselves. And no, I am not talking about tourists, although there were heaps of them all around. Catalonians were all wearing delightful summer clothing and shoes or sandals all carrying the stamp made in Spain. As I started to look up I noticed most were also wearing the perfect summer hats. I thought to myself, I wouldn’t mind getting lost among these people for a while. The Las Ramblas is a huge major street with hotels, side street tapas restaurants, shops, and a huge outdoor market. The market is filled with all the fresh organic produce your little heart desires, anything from 34€/100g prosciutto to fresh caught tuna to 7000 types of olives, cheeses and of course all kinds of amazing Riojas. I was in perfect bliss! What could be better than this?
After scouting and eating lunch in this wonderful market we were on our way in search for architecture and of course, Gaudi. First stop was taking a pretty sweet teleferic (enclosed chairlift) offering a great view of the city down below up to Montjuic Castle. The Castle itself gives you a great understanding of the foundational roots of Barcelona and it also accounts for a piece of history of the wars fought back in the days, but you are only scratching the surface by visiting this castle.
One question comes to mind: where is Gaudi? After a 45 mins walk we were about to find out. Gaudi’s Park Güell is filled with the true essence of Catalonian flavour. It’s what defines these people and brings thousands from across the world to witness Gaudi’s everlasting architectural brilliance. I mean, to sit on a clay structure resting while listening to the Spanish guitar, what’s more romantic?… To see many mosaic tiled lizards strikes me to question Gaudi’s vacationing spots, but not too seriously, because whatever inspired him to create these murals inspired me. In Park Güell lives a little house where you can find treasures that once belonged to Gaudi. For instance, you can see his bed which I was amazed to see is quite small, yes, he was short and extremely religious, but did I mention, brilliant! I am attaching a couple of pictures below which will better explain what I mean. If that’s not enough, we reserved Casa Batlló for our next visit to Barcelona. I can’t seem to get enough of this guy! After culturing oneself comes relaxing, so…
We went to explore Barcelona beach. Nothing says ‘you’ve arrived’ more than sinking your toes into white sand and smelling the fresh salt water from the sea. We found a nice tucked spot next to a dozens palm trees with tunes in the background playing. Swimming in the sea’s water in July can still be described as chilly but once you are in there your body gets adjusted and you quickly forget about the immediate discomfort. This is the perfect place to plan where you should go for your birthday dinner – where or where could you go?
Well, why not Bravo24 in the W hotel? This restaurant (run by Carles Abellan) seemed to me like a Spanish version of Jacobs in Toronto. We started with prosciutto which melted in our mouth. We found our favourite steak cut (Japanese wagyu) grilled to perfection at our table and we decided to go all out with by far the best New Zealand Pinot Noir I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The atmosphere was imitate, the service, well it’s Spain, but it was all worth it and I would do it all again in a heartbeat! Barcelona, I adore you!! Gaudi you are a sources of inspiration for me! We’ll be back…
p.s. There is a Catalonian version of the Arc de Triomphe!