05 December 2012

Barcelona, my lovely

I decided to visit Barcelona on a whim. I had a few weeks off work, and I found a cheap ticket. I found what looked like fantastic and affordable accommodation on AirBnB.com. With AirBnB, you stay in someone's house, get to know them and get a cheaper place to stay. It's fantastic, and I totally recommend it, but definitely read reviews first and stay with someone who's verified. Take care of yourself.

I had been to Barcelona before, and I had already fallen in love with the city. I've wanted to go back ever since. I wish my Spanish was better now than it was then, but it's not. And everyone else's English is a million times better than it was!

Years ago, during the winter of 2004-2005, Craig and I went on a brilliant 3 week holiday to Barcelona. He wanted to show me the city where he'd studied, just before he came back to Atlanta and we got together.

We had the best time. We learned about the Spanish New Year's tradition Uvas de la Suerte, wherein you eat 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of the old year. We were vegan, which was impossible, and we were hungry. We stayed in a truly bizarre flat. It was hard, too, for a lot of reasons, but mostly, it was amazing.

Because I'd already done a lot of the expensive tourist things in Barcelona last time I went, this time was more about getting to know the city and enjoying some of the more culinary pleasures of Barcelona, rather than focussing on the architectural and artistic aspects. It was actually really nice to just wander about, get lost in the Barri Gótic (the Gothic Quarter) and have a lot of really nice coffee.

But I didn't really feel like I was in Barcelona until the afternoon of my first day, when I wandered up to Passeig De Gracia, and saw the special tiles that pave that street, designed by Gaudí, and looked up to see Casa Mila, the undulating beast of a building that looms over the corner.

I love Barcelona's festive lights over all the city streets.

I happened across this little gem on Carrer d'Amargós. Amargós means 'bitter,' and this sign says something like, "Do not be a pedestrian long on this street, a street that is not bitter, but sweet.":
The Christmas markets were outside the Cathedral, which took my breath away. Last time I went to Barcelona, the Cathedral's facade was being renovated. I had no idea it was so stunning.

This used to be a convent and is now the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB). However, there are loads of buildings in Barcelona that are just as pretty and seem to have no reason for it.

This square is now part of a library.

Sun setting over Placa del Rei.

Barcelona uses a 'B' as the typographic logo for the city. I like the way the B is played with to create an identity based on design and creativity for the city.

Breakfast one day was xocolat con churros. Super rich. Delicious and tasty, but entirely too much for one Nija.
I stayed with some lovely people: Pau, Susanna, Jack and Miki. I'll be honest, I was a little nervous at first. Short skinny woman. Travelling alone. Staying in someone's house. Things could get awkward at the very least, and positively dangerous at the most. But my nerves were for nothing. These people are among the best in Barcelona.They welcomed me and made me feel at home. We talked about the recent elections in Catalunya that seemed to give more power to secessionist parties. They all feel it's very complicated and they're not sure they want to be a separate country. They want to stay in the EU more than anything.

I was truly grateful that I'd stayed with them. If I'd been on my own, I would have felt like it was bad form to back to a hotel room at 7pm, even if I was tired and had been out walking all day. But because I was staying with these guys, I could head back and hang out with them. Time that might have been guiltily spent in a hotel room by myself watching rom-coms was, instead, time spent making new friends. They cook a big family meal every night and sit down to eat together. It was really lovely to spend the week with them, and I hope to visit them again soon! On my last night with them, I cooked dinner-- a huge pile of enchiladas. I really enjoyed being able to stay in a home environment.
Susanna and I gossiped for hours. I miss her a lot. We had a fantastic time chatting to each other about boys and friends and the city. One night, we sat out on the terrace, in the cold, drinking and singing songs while Marcos (their neighbour) played the ukelele. Miki played the kazoo. A lovely evening.Susanna and Miki: so in love.

Jack and Marcos singing "Hey ya!" Jack is a delightful human being. I miss him.

Miki and Pau shared some mató with me, a Catalan cheese that's eaten for dessert with honey. It's like ricotta, almost, crumbly, bright white and wet. It's really nice.

Their place is in the Raval, perfectly close to everything in the city. I found a little bar near them, called Iposa. The bartender is THE MOST CHARMING MAN IN THE WORLD. He grew up in France, lived in London for years and now lives in Barcelona, so his accent sparkles. He's super friendly and sweet and makes a killer cortado. I'm a little bit in love with him.

I had maybe one too many glasses of red wine at Iposa when I noticed the pretty squiggle shadows.

Manchego at Iposa. So flipping delicious, marinated in oil and dipped in black pepper.

I added yet another to my caganer collection! See more of my collection here. The funny thing is, I've been buying these little guys for years now, telling people how Catalans are obsessed with shit... but I'm the one with three caganers now, right? So... 
I had a fabulous holiday, meeting new people and sleeping late. Drinking coffee and chocolate and red wine and eating cheese. I love Barcelona for its beautiful buildings, for joyful architecture. I still wish my Spanish was better, but I have decided that's my first New Year's resolution: start taking Spanish classes and don't stop! I also wish I could learn Catalan, but that might be too ambitious. It's a beautiful language, with Xs and Ks and apostrophes. 
I can't wait to go back.

More pictures right here:
Barcelona November 2012