It's the city that keeps on giving, unconditionally. Gems to be discovered and enjoyed are scattered generously throughout every street. And speaking of streets, Barcelona is the dream city for people who, like myself, enjoy exploring on foot. The neat, grid-like plan of the city means that with a dash of patience, you could effectively get to most of your destinations.
Till date, I've never heard anyone say that they didn't enjoy their time in Barcelona, or that they ever felt bored. There's so much to do and see, whether you're an explorer, a culture vulture, a foodie, a sports fan (Força Barça!), a shopaholic or a beach bum. Personally, I'm a little bit of everything. Despite visiting twice already, there's still enough reason for me to visit a third time (fingers crossed).
Places to visit and things to do...
Antoni Gaudí's architecture - if you can, you should check all of them out. The ones on the top of my list are La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Parc Güell and Palau Güell. Gaudí's eccentric eye and uncontainable imagination have resulted in some of the most beautiful architecture I've ever seen.
Parc De La Ciutadella - perfect for a picnic, especially in the warmer months. It's always bustling with life, making it a great spot to people watch. At one end you're greeted by the majestic Arc De Triomf, and at the other, the Barcelona Zoo.
Neighbourhoods to explore - Las Ramblas is a long stretch of one of the most crowded promenades and is teeming with tourists. Here you'll find everything from markets and art to souvenirs and street food. Do remain alert, because where there are lots of tourists, there are lots of people trying to trick or scam them. I almost had my phone swiped from me here. Another favourite neighbourhood is the Barri Gòtic, also known as the Gothic Quarter. The cobblestoned streets make you feel as though you've stepped back in time, only exaggerated by the many gothic cathedrals. Do make your way to the Basílica Santa Maria del Mar, where you have the opportunity to take a tour on the rooftop and experience a 360º view of the city.
Camp Nou - if you're a football fan, you definitely have to venture to this magnificent stadium and even possibly catch a game.
Castell de Montjuïc - situated at the top of Parc de Montjuïc at 173m above sea level, this fortress today stands as an emblem of Barcelona's struggles through history. It's a magnificent space with a matching view. You can get there by taxi or a bus and then cablecar. For the more daring, you could take a mini hike.
Eat like there's no tomorrow - Barcelona is like Singapore when it comes to food. Meaning that it's almost impossible to find a bad restaurant. Walk into any cafe or tapas bar at any time of day and I'm pretty certain you will not be let down. Two standout places for me were Cervesería Catalana and Pitarra.
Pla de Palau fountain - this might not be on everybody's list, but it was definitely a place that I personally wanted to visit. This is the fountain in which Shakira jumped into for her music video for Loca. You probably know by now that I'm a huge fan of Shakira so I wanted to check this place out firsthand.
Another thing about Barcelona that I wasn't very aware of before visiting the first time was the fact that a surprisingly large number of people spoke only in Catalan. So much for 7 years of learning Spanish. So to end this post I've put together a little list of phrases that I wish someone had given me before I landed in Barcelona. I hope they come in handy!
- Please - Sisplau/Si us plau. (sees-PLOW/see oos PLOW)
- Thank you - Gràcies/Mercès. (GRAH-syuhs/muhr-SEHS)
- I can't speak Catalan well - No parlo bé el català. (noh PAHR-loo BEH uhl kuh-tuH-LAH)
- With soy milk - Amb llet de soja (ahm JHET de SO-jha)
- I don't eat pork. No menjo porc. (noh MEHN-zhoh pohrk)
- The check, please - El compte, si us plau. (ehl KOHMP-teh, see oos plow)
- How much is this? - Quant costa això? (KWAHNT kohs-ta ai-SOH?)
- I love you - T'estimo (tuH-stee-moh)
On my first visit to Granada, I proudly proclaimed that "the city definitely warrants a second visit". A year later while touring Spain, I proved myself right. As often happens after you discover something great, when you experience it again and again, it seems to lose it's charm - it's never as good as the first time. An experiential desensitisation, if you will. However, it's definitely not so with Granada. Other than the 40 degree temperature difference from my previous visit, everything else was the same. The same ease of life lingered in the air, seducing you with every breath. The same levels of awe for what has remained from it's explosive history, juxtaposed with the repose of modernity.
When you're under the Andalusian sun, surrounded by so many gems waiting to be discovered, with Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, there is almost nothing that could make you feel any sort of tension. It's as if life itself in Granada is rose-tinted. I think it's now safe to say that it's one of my favourite cities to travel to and I look forward to these future visits. In the meantime, here are some snapshots from my brief return to a most magical place.
Wearing: Mango - Shirt // Acne Studios - Trousers // Gloria Ortiz - Hat // Bershka - Sneakers
As an illusory spring teases London with deceptively sun-drenched afternoons, it's only natural for me to yearn for those sultry days spent in the south of Spain last summer - wandering in earnest, trying different foods everyday and not having to worry about a vitamin D deficiency. It was an admittedly rushed trip and we found ourselves hopping from city to city like a butterfly with a voracious appetite. Seville was one of the places where I wish we could have spent more time in, not only to truly delve into its rich history but to explore its urban marvels as well. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be visiting again... but until then, here's a visual recollection of Sevilla.
Along the historic Madrid-Andalusia route lies this little blue gem of a town - a lapis lazuli, if you may. In the olden days, there were not many places travelers could stop for food and shelter on their journeys, but Puerto Lápice was one of them. Like those travelers, we too made a quick stop here for a meal as we left Madrid and began our tour of Andalusia and Toledo. Today, this quaint place is renowned not only for its striking cobalt accents on white buildings, but because of the fictional adventures of Don Quixote. Written in the 16th century by Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha is considered a founding work of Western literature. On one of Don Quixote's adventures, he was psuedo-knighted after he mistook an inn for a castle... And that inn is believed to be the Venta del Quijote, where we were having our breakfast and coffee.
In the three sweaty days spent in Madrid this summer, I came to the not-so-groundbreaking conclusion that I'm a city slicker. Always have been, always will be. Madrid lacked the usual features of a place I'd typically fall in love with, but I was drawn by the magnetic charm of a big city. And what a city, so unapologetically metropolitan. Characteristic of a capital, Madrid bustles at full force, vibrant with life, at any given time of day. And night. People who proclaim New York as the city that never sleeps perhaps have not seen the state of affairs along Gran Vía.
Whenever I'm in Madrid, I never feel displaced. I fit right into the hustle. It definitely does not feel like home either, but a strange familiarity looms overhead while, for example, I walk through Puerta del Sol, or indulge in some dessert and coffee at an industrially rustic cafe. Madrid is comfortable enough to make me forget I'm on vacation (I'm still unsure if that's a good or bad thing). My take is to not be afraid to let your instincts* guide you. The best way to experience this city is to get lost in her. Repeat after me, kids. Get. Lost.
Get lost in the history of her museums and galleries. Get lost in the beauty of her oases. Get lost in the elegance of her streets. Get lost in the intoxication of her food**. Take it slow and approach your holiday with no rigid agenda.
Except for San Ginés. The best chocolate y churros must always be on the agenda. Always. Thou shalt not resist.
Photo assistance - Claudia Naomi
Wearing: Zara - Shirt, jeans // Bershka - Shoes
* Hopefully it does a better job than mine, which left me in the middle of a political party's campaign, of which's official colours were coincidentally all over my shirt. But that's a whole other story for another day and time.
** While on the topic of being a glutton, make sure you visit Mercado de San Miguel on an empty stomach. You'll thank me for this after your nth gourmet tapas plate.