This definitely links to my 31 Days of Happy Things, because going away to Barcelona for a week was wonderful. Dan and I stayed in a little studio apartment which was actually very reasonable since you pay a deposit before you go and then pay the rest when you get there – it gives you a chance to save up for it. The apartment was in Barceloneta, just a short walk from Port Vell and from the beach, as well as Barceloneta Metro station. The apartment was little, but big enough for two people, and it was truly Barcelona, in a narrow street full of balconies and washing strung out to dry. We had a narrow balcony, and a kitchen, and the apartment had exposed brickwork and red accents.
The sun was out for at least four days when we were there, even though on Thursday and Friday it was cloudy and a bit chilly. Although nothing quite prepared me for the cold when we arrived back to London! So it was around 25 degrees on most days and felt like June, not October. It was so good to get away, even if it was just a week, because even though we had Wi Fi in the apartment, there was a problem with the building’s connection, so it had to be fixed and we only got it back on Thursday night. So it truly was a holiday from everything, and I didn’t actually write anything at all. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but I think I needed the time to just relax and be away. Its changed my feelings about Facebook for good though – I’m tired of it and although it is great to keep up with people, at the same time, it is definitely overload.
It also made me realise that I love art and architecture and Barcelona is such a riot of different styles and a feast for the eyes – it was beautiful seeing the contrast between everything. I mean, you get these beautiful modern buildings and strange architectural statements next to run down brick buildings with balconies. Both are beautiful because one is making a statement and another is full of history. Then there are touches of Gaudi and Miro everywhere – in styles and statues and buildings. I fell in love with Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, which is a must see, and so is a trip inside the Sagrada Familia. It was the kind of awe inspiring experience that you remember forever. There is nothing in the world like it, and you can see why it is taking so long to finish the Sagrada Familia.
It was difficult to understand Catalan, but the two of us tried our best to understand both Spanish and Catalan, even though most of the menus and guides were in English. In some ways, it is part of a holiday to try and be respectful of another language and culture, and especially in Catalonia. Dan did really well trying to order things in Spanish or Catalan, whilst my repertoire didn’t stretch so far (Gracias, Per Favor etc…). Plus I found Spanish and Catalan difficult to lipread!
The food varies depending on where you go, because there are so many tapas bars and a lot of them do the same things. We tried different things, so one night we went to a restaurant in Barceloneta, called Can Ramonet, where we shared a noodle Paella (nothing special and it was a bit stodgy) – it is an old family run restaurant that is still going strong. On Wednesday night we found ourselves in an ‘Irish’ cocktail bar called Milk where we had cocktails and enjoyed the relaxing ambience and tasty food (I had a pasta dish with chicken and a rose sauce, yum). Then on Thursday we had lunch at a 1970s/1960s style Tortilla (omelette) restaurant/bar called Flash Flash – in Dan’s words, it seemed clinical with all the white walls and booths and the black paparazzi silhouettes on the walls. I liked it though, it was different and definitely had a 1960s’s feel with the white booths and diner style. But the best meal had to be on Thursday night when we went to Senyor Parellada, a lovely restaurant with traditional Catalan cooking and wonderful service. The surroundings were quirky and traditional – with wood benches and chandeliers but also with lights made out of lots of light bulbs. The atmosphere was relaxed and smart casual – I didn’t feel overdressed in my black dress, but it isn’t a ball gown/cocktail dress sort of place. The food was fantastic – lovely fish dishes and things like Duck roasted with figs and gourmet versions of traditional desserts like Churros with hot chocolate. Of course I had the Churros – I didn’t get a chance to try them anywhere else, and these were excellent. Incidentally, Nigella Lawson has a recipe in her ‘Kitchen’ cookbook…
The coffee was so strong – even if you ask for a Cafe con Leche (coffee with milk), it is still worth using two packets of sugar if you don’t like it too bitter! I did actually find that I preferred the strength of it and when we popped into Starbucks for a Latte, I found it maybe a bit too sweet and milky! I could get used to drinking strong coffee, the way it is meant to be drunk. Both of us were battling colds that we brought with us from the UK and I was fine until Thursday night/late afternoon when I started coughing and feeling very run down. All day Friday I had a terrible headache and chills, so it was probably just as well that we flew back on Friday night. I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t make more of Friday, we spent most of the day at the airport because neither of us felt too great. I could have done with an extra two or three days as it would have been more relaxing, but having an apartment was lovely, and I think renting apartments is better in some ways than going to a hotel. It lets you see a different side to a city or town.
On to the first part of the photos (more to follow)…