Weekend getaway: Barcelona

The husband decided for my birthday in November that the gift of two tickets to the sunny, artsy and delicious paradise that is Barcelona was just what I needed. And boy, was he right!

We walk a lot and I stop for photos often. We also stop for coffee, beer, snacks and sitting breaks but I believe the best way to explore new cities is on foot.

Humour me as I take you through another mini photo essay of an exotic European destination. This time, it’s an early Friday to late Sunday evening excursion to Spain.

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We took off from chilly grey skies in Dublin and due to high winds, touched down in Barcelona in under three hours.

He had booked us a hotel near La Rambla Boulevard, a walking strip full of shops, restaurants and market stalls that cuts through the city centre. There are alleyways jutting out from this tourist landmark that take you down a cobblestone maze of melt in your mouth deli/pastry shop crosses, tapas restaurants, souvenir stores and more.

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Since we arrived mid-morning, we took a leisurely stroll with our small bags from the train through the Parc de la Ciutadella, en route to the Port Olimpic Marina and beach.

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The park has a zoo (which we did not visit) but for January, the gardens were lovely and reminded me of Brisbane in winter!

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The imposing Catalan Parliament building is a focal point in the park.

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I did not Photoshop these photos, let’s just stare in amazement at the vivid colours captured by my mobile’s camera.

Doesn’t it make you want to escape the winter blues and jet off to Spain? As I write this in an Irish pub, sipping on my Smithwicks, a Spanish guitar medley is quietly playing in the background…I’m taking this as a sign I’m meant to go back. Or maybe not order that second beer?

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No, no I’m meant to go back, my pink coat didn’t stand out as much amongst Barcelona’s bright colours.

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The jacaranda tree! Can you see it? I haven’t set eyes on one of those lovely purple flowering trees since Australia! Or at least it looks like a close cousin of the jacaranda. Apparently in Barcelona, they also have their very own Arco de Triunfo, Google tells me it was built in 1888 for the World Expo. They even put lovely cycle trails leading up to it! Hot tip: in this area we ate at a deli cafe that was about half the price and just as delicious as anything you’ll find near La Rambla. More Euros for more manchego I say!

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I’m a tad embarrassed to say we happened upon the beautifully preserved subterranean ruins and cultural centre that is Mercat Del Born. It cost €84 million and took 12 years for them to renovate and reopen this gem…good thing our excellent tourist compasses were on high alert that day! We stopped in for a sticky beak and then moseyed on over to the Picasso Museum.

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There are a few different fee and tour options to choose from, we went with the one that gave us access to the current photography exhibition of Pablo Picasso at work in his home, as well as the regular collection on site. A couple of hours in and our appetites and the lure of the blue sky had us walking up La Rambla again.

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We stopped in for some manchego and sangria at Els 4 Gats, the famous cafe/hostel/cabaret/pub/restaurant hot spot for all of the contemporary figures living in and frequenting Barcelona in 1897 – Picasso himself was a regular!

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The next day we tried to squeeze in as much Gaudi architecture and local culture as possible via a hop on, hop off tour. We stopped at the massive Sagrada Familia Basilica which is always undergoing upkeep and is jaw droppingly, well, just look at the picture. I’m no design expert but you can see why it’s the city’s number one tourist destination.

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This is just the outside of a building near the Basilica, I thought I’d take a mini mental Gaudi break. Plus it’s cute, now you know where my knowledge of architecture sits on the high brow culture scale.

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Let’s call this one the stone gingerbread house. Does anyone else see it? This is outside Parc Guell, another magical and mystical Gaudi creation!

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I’m sure if you Google Parc Guell, a similar shot will appear. Take comfort in the fact this one is fresh from 2015 courtesy of my camera phone (as you can see from the objects poking in on either side…I need to work on my rule of thirds).

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Another shot from Parc Guell. So. Much. To. Look. At. In. One. Place.

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I am not a huge sports fan and the husband had already been twice, so I only snapped a fleeting photo of the FC Barcelona stadium…sorry Barca fans! To make matters worse, they had a match on Sunday night when we were flying out and we only discovered it that day, the horror.

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Our trip ended with an afternoon spent down by the Marina Port Vell, full of docked yachts and tasty restaurants with patio seating spilling out in the sunshine. We dined on tapas, mojitos and sat happily in the warm, blissful rays. Except for when somebody in a Barcelona jersey passed and my husband got ‘the look’*.

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All in all, a perfect dose of sun, sea and sangria to remedy the mid-winter blues. I will definitely go back at some point but for now, a three day stint in Barcelona gave me a few great Zara staples, an arts and culture fix and a much needed vacation!

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*’The look’ means, I might miss our flight to go to the match. No wait, it’s your birthday present. But we’re in Barcelona…so I might as well go to the match.

For the record: we took the flight back to Dublin that night. I am now researching tickets for future sporting events, all suggestions welcome!

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