our first full day in barcelona was a great introduction to the neighborhood and the city. we took in a lot of sights. in the morning, we started with a walking tour of the “old city,” taking in the narrow alleyways and maze of plazas and side streets. we ate at a hippie little vegetarian restaurant, enjoying the healthier, lighter fare and choosing the set menu that concluded with a brownie and some rich flan. we walked on the famous, tourist-heavy ped-street called la rambla before ducking into the mercat de la boqueria, a huge market full of legs of jamon (cured ham) and other parts of miscellaneous animals. we then walked over to marvel at palau guell, one of gaudi’s early buildings, then into placa reial, a plaza with some light posts designed by gaudi, then we really got into the maze of the barri gottic, as we gawked at the gothic masterpiece the catedral, saw parts of old roman walls, and looked at the eglesia de santa maria del mar, another huge gothic church.
next up was a gaudi-filled afternoon (antoni gaudi was an artist and architect who embraced the modernism movement at the turn of the century in barcelona and is world-renowned for his innovative design genius. also, a devout catholic and catalan nationalist). we visited the casa batilo and the la pedrera, 2 buildings gaudi was commissioned to redesign. we could only afford to go in one, so we chose la pedrera (the quarry), a huge building with a flowing facade and a rooftop full of fantastical figures complete with swooping, curving walkways. we were certainly amazed by the thought and brilliance he put into every space.
last but not least, we made it over to park guell, a green space gaudi was commissioned to turn into a miniature garden city of houses for the wealthy. the project was eventually abandoned, but not before gaudi created over 3 kilometers of roads, paths, and public areas. we saw his sala hipostila, which was meant to be a market, guarded by a famous, mosaic-covered lizard. we also enjoyed the banc de trencadis, the tile-covered curving bench that wraps around the roof of the market. we also hiked up to tibidabo, the highest hill in the park, where we watched the sun set and tried not to get blown off by the strong gusts of wind.
walking back from the park, we predictably got lost, following one path to another in the growing darkness. we finally emerged into a small, run-down neighborhood that we hurried through, searching for bigger and bigger streets until finally finding a main thoroughfare. what vacation is complete without the compulsory getting lost phase, right? to reward ourselves (and to rest our weary legs) we found a low-key taverna in our neighborhood (near the catedral) called babia. it was crammed full of locals, and our waiter helped us pick out the good tapas (we’re loving patatas bravas, croquettas, and the sweet sausage that i can’t name in spanish right now) which we devoured and washed down with the cheap-as san miguel. classic spain. we wandered home in the bustling night, full of families and groups of young people just starting their evening. the city is buzzing at all hours, and it’s thrilling to feel a part of it, even if it’s only for a brief moment.