After working a week at our workaway in Catalonia’s Penédes region we thought it was time to make the trip in to Barcelona to see what all the fuss was about. I first contacted Anthony, a friend from Australia that we knew lived in Barcelona asking if he was available to catch up and perhaps even lend us a couch for the night. By lucky coincidence he and his girlfriend Monica were housesitting another apartment while we were in town, meaning his apartment in central Barceloneta was totally free. He very kindly offered for us to stay and we very gratefully accepted.
Nicky, an Argentinian friend of ours who we’d met working in Istanbul was also going to be in town at the same time, so we arranged a day to meet and for him to show us around the city that he loved and knew so much about. This was turning out to be a promising visit! We packed our bags, jumped on the train, and before we knew it had arrived in the buzzing capital of Spain’s Catalonia region – Barcelona.
After briefly catching up with Anthony he handed us the keys to his apartment and we left to explore the city. We ventured through the Barri Gotic before having to join the ever-so-crowded Rambla, then slowly made our way up to the equally busy Mercado de la Boqueria. We’d heard from several people that the once local market had become overly touristy, and although it was packed with an impressive range of fresh produce and artisan products did feel like it had lost a lot of it’s authenticity.
After perusing stall after stall of delicious meats, pungent cheeses and fresh fruits we had built up quite the appetite, so grabbed a very Spanish felafel wrap before heading to El Raval, a now gentrified area full of hip characters, burning joints and colourful street art. We continued to walk the city’s many streets aimlessly before our stomachs started to grumble, indicating that it was time for dinner.
We’d read of a cosy bar named Quimet & Quimet which served up delicious bite-sized sandwhiches called pinchos. When we arrived just before opening time there was already a sizeable line at the door, so we decided to search for somewhere else close by. We found an appealing Mexican restaurant just around the corner serving €1 tacos, so we washed a few down with a fria cerveza and headed to our recommended and highly anticipated dessert spot.
Granja Viader is a Catalonian institution, serving up handcrafted cakes, pastries and supposedly the first-ever chocolate milkshake since 1870. Despite the long list of tempting treats we were there to try one thing and one thing only – the crema Catalana. It was our first bite of Catalonian fair since arriving in Barcelona and it was everything we’d hoped for, cracking our spoons through the toffee crust to a cinnamon and orange/lemon zest custard inside. It. Was. Awesome.
After dessert we walked to where Anthony was housesitting in Port Olímpic. He had not only invited us around for a few drinks and nibbies but also to check out the beautiful apartment which was primely positioned on the water. We spent most of the night discussing and laughing about the differences between Spanish and Australian cultures, in particular the need for Australians to use manners to the point of excessiveness. It’s funny how elements of your own culture become more apparent only when spending time in others. After a great night in we said our goodbyes and headed back to the apartment to rest up for our catch up with Nicky the following morning.
Nicky met us at Barceloneta Beach all bright eyed and bushy tailed. We were waiting for him to see the historic sights of Barcelona, something he was passionate and very knowledgable about. We first walked to Plaza Reial before continuing on to the Catedral de Barcelona. After adjusting our stiff necks we walked through Plaça de Catalunya on the way to Gaudí’s impressively different Casa Batló. We kept walking down Passieg de Gracia to La Padrera and then to the unbelievable Sagrada Família. The lines to enter were stupidly long and the cost of the tickets were equally as ridiculous, so we opted for a beer and to admire it from afar instead. Our last stop was the beautiful Parc de Montjuic, and then after a big day of walking it was thankfully time for lunch.
We found a popular self-serve pinchos restaurant named La Tesqueta de Bla and after missing our opportunity to dine at Quimet & Quimet the previous night didn’t hesitate to grab the first table we saw. After having to restrain myself from going back for a third helping we headed to La Rambla for something sweet and then back to the apartment to meet Anthony and to hand back his keys. We decided to take a scenic detour through the Parc de la Ciutadella on the way to Arc de Triomf station, then said a sad goodbye to our dear friend Nicky as we jumped aboard the train heading back to our workaway in Penédes.
Being mindful not to be excessively polite, a very special thanks to Anthony for kindly lending us his apartment for the night. You made our very comfortable stay in Barcelona possible. Another big thanks to Nicky for taking the time out of his holiday to show us around the city, repair our broken Spanish, and look after us like a caring father does his spoilt children.
Until next time Barcelona; adiós!