Today we feature a guest post by reader Gabrielle Martin on Spanish charm in Barcelona.
The moment I stepped out of BCN airport after my highly entertaining 14-hour flight courtesy of AirFrance, I fell in love with Barcelona, Catalonia. The city has such aged charm but it still manages to embrace the modern world. Although I traveled in October I was greeted by the ever present and offensively hot Sun that everyone tells you about. You can smell the water in the air as your taxi drives along the streets that spill into the city center. The palm trees, although not native to Barcelona, add a nice touch of the tropics. I skipped the traditional path of using a hotel and decided to look into apartment rentals on AirBnB.com. I was scheduled to stay 18 days in the district of L’Eixample.
Barcelona is made up of 10 districts, much like neighborhoods but with 200,000 people in each one. L’Eixample is easily the best barri (neighborhood) to stay in. Everything is close with nothing no more than a 5-20 minute cab ride away. Neighboring cities that you rarely hear about will keep you culturally satisfied when the buzz of the city becomes too loud.
My first taste of the city was in their most famous market, Mercat de la Boqueria. Located in the old city, the market is stuffed to its’ brim with hanging pork, lovely tapas bar, fresh produce from outlining farm towns and every kind of souvenir you could possibly imagine. I walked from booth to booth for hours, only purchasing fresh saffron to bring home to my mom and sweet fruit juices that seem so easy to make in theory but in reality I’ve been craving it since my return home. Outside the market you can hear the flamenco music playing, smell the paella being made and the sounds of a language similar to spanish but far more difficult. It’s called Catalan and it belongs to the original people of Catalonia, and yes, they make their differences known. Even their flag is not the same.
Crossing a block or two up you are now in the modern world of Passeig de Gracia. With businesses, top clothing designers such as Louis Vuitton, Prada and Hermes with some of Antoni Gaudis’ best work sprawled in between cafes and bars, it’s the perfect blend of work, play and play some more. As a photographer, I thought I paid attention to art but when you visit a city that was either the birthplace or the adoptive home of Gaudi, Picasso, and Salvador Dali – you realize just how much you didn’t know. Imagine if Toledo redesigned the city in tribute to its name – The Glass City. A basic building would turn into a piece of art.
Wandering on these cobblestone roads led me to La Sagrada Familia. Gaudis’ masterpiece and Barcelonas’ most famous attraction. Antoni Gaudis’ most passionate and in my opinion, most detailed piece. He began working on it in 1891 and it is still being constructed. Calling it a Cathedral seems a bit underwhelming because it’s the Bible in the form of a building. One side of the Cathedral depicts The Passion of Christ, while the opposite side illustrates his birth. This is how I met and fell in love with this city. Next week let’s leave Barcelona for the coastal city of Costa Brava and a day trip to Girona!
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