Wednesday, August 1, 2018

EuroTrip 2018 Part 2: Barcelona, Spain

It surprised nobody more than me that in my 4.5 years of living in Europe I never once made it to Barcelona.  Spain, yes.  Barcelona, no.

Our trip to Europe was centered around a wedding in Mallorca, so I knew if we could do only one thing outside of Norway family time it had to be Barcelona.

And Barcelona it was!

I've always heard "Barcelona is so aMaZiNg!".  So I expected it to be like Paris in that, yes, it was amazing but not, in fact, aMaZiNg.

But what do you know, it legit was aMaZiNg!

The only thing to make it amazing-er is enjoying it with friends.

The beauty of Europe is no place is too far away from anywhere else.  When you put out a call, "Hey, who wants to go to Barcelona?" a few people are bound to bite!

Clare is an Aussie friend and former colleague who moved to Germany for a working holiday and stayed a while longer because she found Das Greener Pastures.  Pieter is a Dutch friend and Edinburgh classmate of Martin's who has spent a ton of time with us in Australia over the past year and a half.  We see him more than we see our own families, but met his new girlfriend Erica for the first time on this trip.

Friends in high places alert: Erica is fluent in Spanish and Pieter studied abroad in Barcelona and...tries to speak Spanish.  Yes I realize they speak Catalan in Barca but they also speak Spanish.  We didn't have to lift a single finger when it comes to planning, navigating or communicating during our trip.  Yessssssss!  First stop:

Park Guell

Any trip to Barcelona is destined to be a historical tour of Antoni Gaudi, a famous architect from the turn of the last century.  His work is best described (by me) as "acid trippy" and for reasons unknown to me heavily toes the line of pretentious at every turn, bordering on straight douchebaggery.  This is evidenced by Wikipedia's description of Park Guell, "a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements".

I won't even dignify that word by looking it up, so I will translate it in normal English: crazy gardens, wildly designed buildings, funky all around.

Since we didn't do any research ahead of time our tour guides didn't know that a new ticketing system had been implemented since their last visit, so we missed out on walking on the iconic Main Terrace and had to view it from afar.

Womp womp.  Judging by the crowds every tourist in town - of which there are many - visits this place.

Pro tip: it's located high on a hill but if you know which roads to take you can take outdoor escalators most of the way up.  If there is an opportunity to avoid physical exertion rest assured I'm going to seize it.

One visit to a Gaudi-designed property per day is not enough.

Casa Batllo

I found this house to be an even funkier display of his work and, my personal belief, proof positive that this guy was on some serious shrooms, LSD or other psychadelics.

Nothing is symmetrical; there are no clean lines.  Basically it's the antithesis of Scandinavian design.  And it must've been a BITCH to build!  It was nifty to see, but I wouldn't classify it as a must see.

Mainly because at 25 Euro a head I also found it crazy overpriced.  Also the audio tour was painfully pretentious and eye roll-worthy, to the point it was almost comedic.  I don't know what other Gaudi houses are on offer throughout town but damn it are they gouging tourists with this.

Another "activity" that costs about the same - but totally worth it this time:


The best damn ham on the planet.  As Martin says, "the champagne of hams" LOL!  It's an apt analogy, though, when you consider the strict naming rights based on origin, price point, and general cult surrounding the product.  Both also being very much adored by me.

This cured ham costs 20-25 Euro ($23-29 USD) per hundred grams (3.5 oz.) is served paper thin and shaved directly from the intact leg, complete with hoof.

A must do in Barca!  There are three other F&B experiences that cannot be missed, and I would argue could make for a complete Barcelona trip even if you saw or did absolutely nothing else.


Bonus points that it's pronounced correctly and not "pie-ella" like the Aussies say.

Seafood, maybe meat, and rice cooked in a cast iron skillet that's several feet wide.  It's dinner, a show and a cultural tour of Spain all in one.


Red wine might be my favorite booze ever (I can't choose just one!) so I have a deep appreciation for the value add of juice and booze-soaked fruit.


Don't waste your time eating just one thing (except paella) when you can eat many different things!

Honorable mentions in the F&B department:

El Xalet de Montjuic

You're paying dearly for the view at this hill top restaurant, but the tasty [small portions of] food prove they're not phoning it in.

This chocolate milk

This is the best chocolate milk I have ever tasted in my entire life.  Pity I discovered it just one hour before leaving town.  I'm told it's a Barcelona thing, not a Spain thing, so this stuff alone is worth a return visit.  It was 100% aMaZiNg!

Can you copyright a font?  Because this stuff clearly has ripped off the Coca-Cola font.  But this stuff is infinitely tastier than Coke or literally any other beverage on the planet.

Ok, fat ass, back to the tourist trail!

Magic Fountain

My crappy cell phone pictures don't capture the scale and awesomeness of this fountain outside of the National Museum of Art...of Catalonia.  Outside of seeing multiple Catalonia flags hanging out of apartment buildings I didn't get to see or hear more about their fight for independence, which I would have liked.  

Just behind the museum is the Olympic Park used in the 1992 summer Olympics.

There's a cable car up in this area, but we didn't take the time to ride one because we had a scheduled entrance time at the #1 must do (non-edible) tourist attraction in Barcelona.

La Sagrada Familia

A church, but not just any church.  A Gaudi church, which means it's the craziest non-church looking church you'll ever see.

My pictures 100% do not do this place justice.  It's impossible to describe other than "trippy" and "incredible".  It's a gigantic cathedral with jagged edges and architectural oddities everywhere you look.

It is also heavily fortified.  There were cops patrolling with machine guns outside.  Terrorism is a huge threat to this heavily touristed city, which I had blissfully forgotten until I saw that.

We stayed well clear of Las Ramblas, the tourist strip where the 2017 vehicle attack occurred, but not because of that.

We steered clear because it's a tourist trap hellhole and ground zero for Barcelona's unpleasant reputation for pickpockets.  No thank you, please.

After six years living in Australia I don't run around the world seeking out beaches, because I am inevitably disappointed by them.  Barcelona was no different, unless you're into naked old ladies with a surprising lack of body shame because then...this is definitely the place for you.  

But I'm not one to turn down the seeing of sights and where all that tasty seafood for my paella came from.  

Arc de Triomf

I was not aware "triumphal" arches existed anywhere outside of Paris.

But apparently there are several around the world, Barcelona being one of them.

My very favorite thing about Barcelona is not at the top of an arch, but right down on the ground.

Almost everywhere the sidewalks are paved in tiles with this geometric floral design.  Thousands of them, everywhere.

And they're fabulous!

I'm a simple gal.  One of the greatest cities in Europe and I get off on the lowly floor tile.

Two and a half days was probably too little to dedicate to this fine city, but we had family to visit and weddings to attend so that's how we had to schedule it.  Barcelona is the kind of place you could spend one afternoon or ten years.

Don't let the hype fool you like it did me.  Barcelona is aMaZiNg!

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