I feel so conflicted every time I visit Barcelona, such a complicated place I have a complete love/hate relationship with.
I still remember very clearly the very first time I went, the very first day, standing on top of Park Güell, looking out over the city and calling my mother to tell her that I’m moving to Barcelona in six months’ time. And I did exactly that. As a visitor, the place mesmerised me on first sight, but living there was a very different cup of tea.
I’ve started commuting up to Scotland after only six months and (weirdly) didn’t regret the eventual decision to move up here one bit. But I was always left wondering if sticking to higher annual sunshine hours would have been a better lifestyle choice.
This trip reminded me of everything I love and hate about Barcelona though, which was great. :) But I promised travel snaps, and an account of adventures so here they go!
We arrived after a much shorter flight than I remembered and headed for our apartments which were in Sant Antoni, right near the old market.
This is a very convenient location to explore Barcelona from, most of the best parts of the city are at a walkable distance, and you have three really good metro lines taking you to different parts of the city, right at your doorstep.
I ended up not relaxing even for a second for most of the trip. I snapped straight into tour-guide mode, dragging D around town so he can see everything. It’s incredibly tiresome to everyone including myself, and something I really need to learn to switch off in the future. I’m great at just letting things (and beers) happen spontaneously when travelling by myself, or visiting new places, but somewhere I know… forget it. Must work on that.
Regardless, I did end up re-visiting a lot of my favourite delights of Barcelona, so I’ll just give you lots of photos and random commentary of what we got up to while there.
We had lazy claras in beach-side chiringuitos all along Barceloneta, counting about-to-land flights in the wide autumn sky, passing us by at 2/minute:
…discovered the roman ruins below all of Gothic Quarter, wandering around on subterraneous walkways, just meters underneath your favourite old-town buildings and squares:
…quaffled delicious food, people-watching from shop windows, or taking a table on the street-side:
…enjoyed Gaudi’s works that weave stone and light into something beyond even your most colourful dreams:
Or just wandered the streets with D, constantly cranking our necks to take in the architecture, every wall oozing that breath of old.
Even though I was in said tour-guide mode despite my best efforts, I did manage to spend some wonderful quality time catching up with close friends, and their children, some of whom are so young I never even had a chance to meet them.
Also got in some drinking and goofing time with our mate Sander, teetering about from bar to bar on the streets of the Born until 4am.
By the last day of our stay we were so weary of the city noise that we opted for visiting Montserrat, a divinely quiet place. Mountains in the Spanish peninsula are nothing like what we are used to up here, but Montserrat is a different beast altogether, even by southern standards.
Its weird peaks assume round organic shapes that will trigger your imagination; you might see an elephant or a monkey depending on the angle. Rosemary and sage grows wild there and on any windy day the fragrance drenches the paths carved in the mountain-side. When I first went, we had blazing sunshine and a strong breeze, but this time the air was so perfectly still that everything had a muffled quality to it so all you could hear was the gravel underfoot.
The muggy grey forecast that was responsible for this calm also saved us from the tourist horde, so we could explore the monastery in relative peace. Most of the visitors that day were pensioner age, and promptly lined up on arrival to say their prayers to the Moreneta, a medieval effigy held in the sanctum.
I ended up bringing back no postcards or even mandatory office treats, and felt quite drained by the end of the trip. I didn’t want to come back home, but I also didn’t want to stay – just the usual conflicted state of mind this city gets me in, every time, without a fault.
Don’t draw the wrong conclusion though, and definitely keep Barcelona on your bucket list! It really is a wonderful place to visit, and you should absolutely go. I don’t want you to judge it by this singular experience I had there, after having been so many times before, having lived there too… I really don’t look at it with the eyes of a tourist anymore – and as you will remember, when I did, I fell in love with this vibrant city at first sight.
Anyhow, to wrap up, I just wanted to share a quick map with you that lists all the best parts of the city that I discovered on my frequent weekend walks while I lived there. You shouldn’t miss them when you do go. Make it your next weekend adventure!