Arriving in Barcelona, we spent the first day getting here and trying to collect our 2 pieces of luggage. Somewhere between Athens and Barcelona, Vueling Airlines had lost both pieces of luggage. We had the clothes we were wearing, and I had my camera and iPad. We were assured we would receive an email when our luggage was found. Having spent our second day at Montserrat, now it was time to get serious about the city.
Park Guell construction had started in 1900 as an estate with triangular plots for 60 well-to-do families. Located on the outskirts of the city, overlooking the ocean, the owner, Eusebi Guell, selected Antoni Gaudi as the architect for the project. Perhaps a hundred years before his time, the project ultimately failed but not before the construction of a network of paths, viaducts and extensive infrastructure for the community. In 1926, the property was opened as a park. While most of the park offers free entry, the portion of the park displaying Gaudi's architectural accomplishments now requires an entry fee. Online advanced reservation were recommended, but we decided to bypass that and showed up at the gate at their 8 AM opening time. Showing up without reservation is not necessarily a good idea, but it worked out for us. By 10 AM the property was crawling with tourists, and it was a good time to leave. Gaudi's colorful and playful designs were delightful. It was fun to walk around, like a grown-up kid, checking out the hundreds of design elements he used in putting the project together.
Gaudi's work and influence are seen across the city, but departing the Park, we headed to, perhaps, his most famous work, the Sagrada Familia. Started in 1882, the church is still under construction, with a 2026 end date anticipated. This is certainly the most ornate church we have ever seen. From a distance, it looks like a birthday cake with extraordinary swirls of icing forming peaks around the base, up close there are innumerable sculptures, gargoyles, and unique designs everywhere you look, an incredible structure.
Nicole had recommended a restaurant for paella at the waterfront, Kaiku, so that was our next stop. Winds of around 25 mph had left the typically crowded waterfront area with few visitors, but after securing the only seats available, outside in the high winds overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, we enjoyed a fabulous, authentic Spanish paella with shrimp, mussels and calamari. Yum!
Las Ramblas, the main street in the center of Barcelona, is separated by a broad pedestrian walkway, which starts at Plaza Catulunya and ends near the water at the statute of Christopher Columbus. Popular with locals and tourists, the walkway is lined with shops and restaurants, and is almost always crowded, especially at night when the city comes to life. Luckily, we were located within half a mile of Las Ramblas, so all our comings and goings took us through this area.
Off the main strip, we visited La Boqueria Market, to buy fresh oranges and cherries, fruit drinks, and the Spanish version of Horchata, which is made with chafu (tiger nut). (The fruit drinks and the hochata both work well with coconut rum, by the way.) Starting around 8 AM in the morning until 8:30 PM, the market sells meats, seafood, produce, spices, everything to prepare the perfect meal, or, if you don't want to cook, there are a number of eateries on site also. On our way out of town, we stopped by the Bar Pinotxo, inside the market, for cafe con leche, chocolate caliente, and one of the best pastries Alan has ever had, said it melted in his mouth.
Definitely not enough time to spend in this vibrant city. We traveled by public transportation out to the airport to pick up the rental car, and discovered that my luggage had been found, Alan's is still missing but thanks to H&M, we have not been walking around in the same clothes since we reach the city. His bag will turn up, eventually.