Friday, April 4, 2014

Barcelona, I love you.

It's been 10-ish years since I went to Barcelona, but I think it's in my top-5 European cities list, for sure.  After a rough flight there, I was happy to have checked into the hotel and rested a bit.  We were staying outside of Barca, at the AC Marriott in a town called Sant Cugat, a landscape of office park buildings and hills (snooze).  Luckily, we were about a 4-minute walk to the train that took us directly to Sant Cugat, as well as to the center of Barcelona in about 30 minutes.

Ended up heading to a small, cute cafe in SC called "Somewhere" for a great brunch.  It was a cosy spot in the middle of town--perfect on a drizzly day to spend some time eating away the day and having some spectacular coffee.  The place was run by some lovely folks who enjoyed practicing their English with us.  It was definitely tucked in the middle of town and was a very local little place--odd, considering a lot of their info had English all over it.  No worries there.  The food was simple, fresh and good...although tough to find meatless dishes in Barcelona, I was able to enjoy some egg whites, fruit, and yogurt.

After a recovery day, we worked for two days with a great team--honestly, it couldn't have gone better, despite the fact that everyone on my team was pretty jetlagged from a busy week the one prior, along with some long flights and time zone changes.  It definitely made the job easier, and once finished, we were excited to have a day to explore the town before heading home (or on to more work).

We moved hotels to be more in the center of town, and found a funky, cute, and affordable boutique hotel called Chic & Basic Ramblas.  It was about a block away from the south end of La Rambla, so the location was pretty much perfect.  The hotel was basic, but had nice artsy touches, a solid bar/cafe for food and drinks, as well as a DJ in the lobby during the evening.  Cute touches like the soap, a nicely designed mural in the room, as well as themed floors definitely made it stand out from your basic hotel.

We had one day of sightseeing--but decided not to start too early.  First stop was La Boqueria, Barcelona's famed food market off La Rambla.  Great selection of fresh food--seafood, meats, cheeses, breads, and incredible fruits and vegetables.  I enjoyed some fresh juices--both a mixed fruit as well as a dragonfruit + coconut combo that was like drinking dessert.  The market was packed--I am definitely going to go back there when I return and have a meal at one of the bars.  It was fun to see students on field trips at a food market.

The rest of the day included walking, having a visit to La Sagrada Familia, a lunch stop at a cool place called Bar Mut, a visit to Parc Guell, and some shopping and ice cream.  Except for a bit of a rainshower mid-day, it was a pretty incredible tourist day.

La Sagrada Familia is a must-see.  I haven't seen it in 10 years and it was incredible to see the progress.  I remember the interior being blocked off with scaffolding--but now, it's wide open and functional.  The natural shapes and stained glass were really cool.  I dig transcendental architecture and Gaudi.  He's a dude.  Handy tip--there was a huge line waiting to get in, but nearly no line for "online ticket purchases."  If you head across the street to the McDonald's for free wifi, you can buy tickets online and go right in.  #winning

I'm not much of a churchy, but something about this place is pretty incredible.  I lingered a bit checking out the interior, as well as snapping a shot with the turtle who is essentially holding the whole place up.

After a lunch of seafood madness at Bar Mut, we headed over to Parc Guell, another of Gaudi's masterpieces.  Although it was still a bit rainy, and the park was pretty much soaked, it was fun to check out the view from the hills, as well as the intricate mosaics lining the main part of the park.

Gaudi's houses appear at the bottom of the park, and one of them is a museum, but I wasn't interested in going in.  There were quite a few tourists, even for this mid-season.

After a good dose of tourist fun, we headed back to La Rambla for walking, ice cream, and shopping.

Overall, a successful few days in Barcelona, both work-wise and play-wise.  And, as this trip went, as soon as I was really done with jetlag, it was time to get on another plane and head home!

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