Monday, March 30, 2015

Barcelona Bites, Sights, and Bars

There are many ways to get around Barcelona, from the old fashioned horse and carriage,
to the modern electric car, but my favorite was simply to walk.
The modes of transportation are the only things that offer both old and new; construction of modern buildings around historical monuments abounds.
Before starting my day, I tried a second cafe
that had the nicest service
with good coffee, excellent freshly squeezed orange juice, and mediocre croissants
but a good apple pastry (according to the person who ate it and let me take a picture).
A few metro stops away, I saw this bakery, which looked fantastic, but there was no way I was going to start my day on the metro without breakfast.

I had a cone of Iberico in La Boqueria from Mas, but I saw that they also have stand alone stores.

Walking can lead to unexpected discoveries, like this shrine near Park Güell,
or these passageways

some leading into courtyards.
As dusk fell, it was time for dinner. Gilda has great reviews in the Gothic Quarter, and since it was a few blocks from where I was staying, I made a reservation through The Fork, which gives diners a discount on two tapas and a main course. The welcome and ambiance are warm, and the artwork is for sale, making it a showcase for artists.
I chose the ham croquetas for one of my tapas and was surprised at how big they were, there was definitely enough to share. As for the croquetas, they used quality ham and I would certainly order these again.
The garlic prawns were my favorite bite of all, lightly cooked and slightly spicy, I wanted to make a meal of them!
The steak and fries were a disappointment after the rock star prawns. I ordered the steak very rare and it came out pink, but not red. It came with a peppercorn sauce, but it lacked flavor and I was glad there was salt and pepper on the table. The Belgians are known for great fries, and they did not disappoint on this plate. Service was a bit hit and miss the night I was there; they had a problem in the kitchen and it affected the wait staff who forgot to bring me a steak knife, added a charge for bottled water I did not order, and neglected my discount from The Fork*. All remedied in the end, but a reminder to always check your bill before paying it. My total with a glass of wine and the discount came to 20 Euros or about $23 for quality food in a nice atmosphere. 
The strolling the Ramblas after dinner
I passed the Gran Teatre del Liceu where they were getting ready to open for an evening of Opera.
I was about to turn in for the night when my host invited another house guest and me to a Couchsurfing event at Polaroid Bar, literally next to our place. I'm glad I accepted the invitation because I met people from all over the world, including Latvia, Germany, Italy, France, and of course the US. It was a Couchsurfing event, so we got discounted draft beer, and even though I don't usually drink beer, it was better than the wine and the sweet mixed drinks, so I had my first beer in years here for the incredible price of 1.50 Euros (less than $2) for a pint!
On another night we went to Juanita Lalà, which had much better wine, and very loud music, but a great patio and enough space for some South Americans to strut their dance moves. We left when the place emptied at 3 AM, and headed to the Placa Reial to go clubbing but all three places we tried to get into were full or had monster lines!
After getting some snacks at the local market, we headed back around 4AM, but we weren't the only ones out. I felt perfectly safe out that late with other people, but if I had been alone, I would definitely stick to the main streets and take a taxi if I was coming back from or to the Gothic quarter.

*Note : They had a problem with my US credit card, so bring cash or an EU credit card. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Beautiful Buildings in Barcelona

Barcelona rivals Paris for the sheer beauty of its buildings. 

This is a hotel near Diagonal and Casa Mila

that resembles a castle.
A post office in the Gothic Quarter
whose interior
is as mesmerizing as a museum.
The justice building is less ornate, but still stately.
Everywhere I walked, there were intriguing styles,
sometimes right next to famous landmarks like the Casa Batlló,

or along the Ramblas.
The street lights
and street tiles in the Eixample district, both had rich details.
Now apartments and offices, many buildings are meticulously maintained 

and you never know what may be beyond an open door
or behind an ancient window.
Residents are proud of their culture and their language Catalan
and their rights to use natural substances
even as ingredients in ice cream:)
Some signs are meant for the tourists, but that doesn't make them any less true!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Barcelona Cathedrals

One of the most famous churches in the world is Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia. The church is so widely visited, it has its own metro stop in Barcelona. 

Even coming out of the metro, you are greeted with art.
As with any popular tourist destination, it's wise to buy your tickets online because the line in the rain was four blocks long on a weekday in the Winter. Count on at least an hour wait on week-ends and in the Summer.
Another option is to buy a tour which allows you entry through a special gate with much shorter lines.
Since I didn't take my own advice to purchase my entry in advance, I literally walked around the entire structure
astounded by the details.
There was a much shorter line at the Cathedral of Barcelona,
and since it is in the middle of a neighborhood, there was an antique market in the square facing the church.
The style here is classically gothic, both outside

and inside.

This is not just a tourist destination, but an actual church, with prayer areas and confessionals, so a strict dress code is enforced (no shorts, bare arms, or tank tops), and student groups may not enter through the main gate. There are areas where no pictures or videos are permitted, so if you go please respect the rules as a guest here.
The astounding amount of gold in every one of the niches
was bedazzling to behold.
The stained glass on a rainy gray day 
added a warm colorful light to the interior.

This section in the center of the church was off limits to visitors and from the map it looks like it is where the choir sits
with an elaborate staircase to the upper portion.
My favorite part was the cloister

with stone sculptures
and 13 geese :)