Archive for August, 2010
I fell in love with Barcelona! How could I not?
This combination of a civilized European city with a Spanish Catalan sort of rudeness made me fall in love with this city immediately. It actually already started on the plane, just before landing, when I saw the twisted spiers of La Sagrada Familia
But let’s go back a few days ago. When I was still in Barcelona.
I spent five days in Barcelona mainly for work (photography) and partly to check some options of living there for a few weeks. I did some homework to know what I want to see, though when I travel and visit another city, I hardly if ever make any plans and prefer to go with the flow and find my own way back. My only Agenda was to take on Barcelona as much as possible, eat Tapas you can’t find anywhere in the world, follow the Arts of Picasso, Gaudi and my favorite Miro and feel like I was one of the actors in one of Almadovar movies.
and my Agenda worked!
I spent most of my time in Gracia neighborhood; This magical area between Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gracia. For me, Gracia was the Barcelona equivalent to the West Village in New York, so in a way, I was a bit biased.
Gracia is, without a doubt, the playground or the backyard of Gaudi. In a short radius in the neighborhood, one can find the Casa Mila, Casa Batlló and the ‘will never be completed’ church, La Sagrada Familia. My important recommendation, which is valid everywhere in Barcelona is to keep your head up and eyes open, exploring the balconies with the colorful tiles, the paintings on the buildings, the sculpted rooftops and the good looking Spanish guys walking toward you in the streets. Of course I recommend to keep your eyes open on your bags and valuables because Barcelona is well known (unfortunately) for its streets muggers.
I stayed in 987 Barcelona, a cute and well designed boutique hotel, located right on Mallorca street. Like most of the streets in this area, Mallorca is such a pictorial street. A tree-lined street with several cafe’s, and most importantly, a bakery which sells delicious home-made cakes and chocolates. Do not let the front of the hotel fool you. This is not another building in a residential neighborhood. The hotel rooms look like they came out of any European design magazine and everything is full of chic and class, as only the Catalans know. There’s nothing like waking up every morning in a room with a huge window overlooking the street and smell the bread being baked in the bakery below.
Note to self: Do not even think you can see all of Barcelona in five days, by foot. As a typical New Yorker who walks a lot, I am often amused when I see a crowded tourist bus passing down Broadway. I promised myself that when I visit a city, I would never get on a tourist bus. Well…. I couldn’t keep my promises, and I found myself one morning on one of these buses. As someone who always prefers to walk the streets, I highly recommend to ride one of these buses at least once, to explore the city.
These buses can be found on Placa de Catalunya and all bus companies offer more or less the same routes, perhaps with minor changes in ways and turns. This is an excellent opportunity to reach the hills of Barcelona, Park Guell, Tibidabo, and the area of Sarria, an old neighborhood, a little further from the center. Wandering the alleys of Sarria made me feel like I’m in a picturesque rural town from old times. It was also during the Siesta time, so maybe that’s why….
No doubt that all the wandering in the streets have increased my appetite. I was still keeping my Agenda to continue and explore Barcelona, but also explore its food and eat.
Gracia is packed with great restaurants and Tapas bars. In fact, I think most of the well-designed and high end restaurants are concentrated in this neighborhood. Unfortunately, five days were not enough to sample and taste all the places I have marked to myself as a ‘must go’ and ‘must taste’ places, but the ones I did visit, were really worth it.
Moo restaurant in Hotel Omm, Principal restaurant, which are both located near Casa Mila, were a great choice. Combining the dining with a view of the city from Casa Mila’s rooftop at dusk was a winner!
Bar Lobo, with its long communal tables was also a great choice and alternative for late lunch or an early dinner. Watching the cute waiters and the people walking by while munching on Tapas and drinking red wine is a ‘must-do’.
Barcelona, like Tel Aviv and like New York, is a nocturnal city. One phone call to a friend who lives in the city for a few years now, and I’m all set with a long list of where to go and where to hang out. One of the first tips I got from him was that the night in Barcelona starts very late. But Way very late. 2 AM in the morning is usually the time when the action is really going on. But still. Barcelona is Barcelona and the Spanish are Spanish, and I found myself at a club downtown at 2AM in the morning. Few glasses of wine, and I don’t even need to look at the time anymore.
As for shopping, there are two types of stores I always love to visit and it doesn’t matter where I travel. I always enjoy visiting Book stores (with a preference for Art Books, photography and design) and Lingerie stores (with a preference to Bras and cute underwear I don’t see in Victoria’s Secret)
I recommend Oysho, where I could find a huge range of bras, underwear and pajamas with a pampering European touch. The store is located in Passeig de Gracia, but can be found in other locations in the city.
The book store, Sant Jordi, I found at the Gothic Quarter. It is a magical store which belongs to a father and son, and gave me the feeling I was in the Cemetery of Forgotten books, as described in the book ‘The Shadow of the Wind’. The store holds Art books, photography, poetry, architecture, literature, etc. The owner, a Spanish man with an impressive knowledge, can trace any book a customer is looking for.
It is quite hard to sum up such a great trip in one post or fa ew pictures. I can still hear the rattling noise of the Tapas’ small plates, mixed with people’s laughs while walking on Mallorca Street in Gracia. Looking up just to see the Casa Milla and other beautiful buildings. I will do it again and again in a heartbeat.
My photographed article about traveling in Barcelona is featured in BLUR issue of K+R online magazine.
Drinking 3 cappuccinos a day with a lot of esfoma, taking the subway to Gran Via, Sol, Banco de Espana. Visiting Museo del Prado, having lunch at Parque de el Retiro, and finding your name carved on a bench. Discovering the joy of Room-mate hotels, going to the green-lime bathrooms at Caixa Forum. Eating fresh Tapas at Plaza de San Miguel market and going back there the next day. Book store at Calle del Pez. Meeting old friends at the rooftop of Circulo de Bellas Artes and watching the sun goes down. Dia Supermarket, Fresh Manchego cheese and red wine. Green Olives, Black Olives, Sea Food as an afternoon snack. Long lines at Palacio Real, Long walk to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Spotting my NY building apartment in an old photo in one of the exhibits, Talking the stairs to the amazing roof-top. Walking in La Latina neighborhood on Sunday when everything is closed, besides the Rastro Flea Market. Delicious Hot Chocolate and churros at the mythical Chocolateria San Gines, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Villa, Plaza de Cibeles. Following the steps of Don Quijote in Barrio de las Letras. Sweet Sangria in the local Tapas Bar. Templo de Debod during Sunset. Late lunch in Cafe Gijon, Subways stops such as Bilbao, Goya or Rios Rosas, which always made me laugh. Doing all the above without knowing a word in Spanish but Gracias…Priceless!