La Belleza de Barcelona

La Belleza de Barcelona

Before coming to this city, Barcelona in my mind was just one of European football capital. And ex-Olympic Games host. Never thought about its marvelous Gaudi architectural design, its hilly contour alongside beaches, and its Catalan culture blended in the red-yellow buildings.

Three days and three nights in Barcelona were simply amazing.

Lely and I got wonderful host (via AirBnB), Isabel, a young artisan living with her two adorable cats. Isabel was a woman with very warm personality, typical Southern European people. She was genuinely friendly and lovely! Her parents originated from Andalucia but she was born and raised in Catalunya—thus she was able to tell us about how North and South Spain were totally like two different countries 😉

We also unexpectedly got new travelmate, a guy who also stayed in Isabel’s flat for a week vacation. His name was Ramin—a half Persian and half German. Ramin, Lely and I ended up exploring Barcelona together for three days, and it was really wonderful time 😀 Here are some highlights of our visit!

Sagrada Familia

If Gaudi is the God of architecture, Barcelona is simply his throne on heaven. All his beautiful works are spreaded over the city, with a single incredible masterpiece under spotlight, Sagrada Familia. This cathedral was built on 1882, but until today, the construction has not even finished yet. Ha! Just wait until 2026 when it will be done……….they said.

The first time I saw this church, honestly it looked a bit spooky. The gothic exterior seems like ancient building you saw in horror movies. But when you get into it…the  view was breath-taking! Sagrada Familia was purposedly designed to imitate tropical rain forest. When you’re inside the building, you’ll feel like standing in the middle of jungle. The pillars vined to the ceiling as if trunks of gigantic trees tried to scratch the sky. The colourful window glasses reflected outside light as if sunshine pass through colourful leaves. The roof itself was formed like dense vegetation covered a huge forest. It was just…..beautiful 🙂

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A building across three centuries

Gaudi was apparently an architect with deep interest to nature, and he applied this natural form into his masterpieces. Who thought a hive or a form of plants can be embedded in construction? Sagrada Familia is a must-visit-object during your trip to Barcelona (and of course because it’s kinda ‘signature building’). Still, I think EUR 15 is probably too much to enjoy this masterpiece. I mean, I can even observe the whole archeological site of Italian Pompeii ruins all day long with less than that…

Another notable Gaudi work was Park Güell. However we didn’t get into this park since we (Lely and I) didn’t want to spend more money 😛 So we just walked around another free park nearby and eat chips…

Parc de la Ciutadella

Have you ever been to a place where you feel like you can just spend the whole day there? Where you can just enjoy yourself and have serene ‘me time’? Where you can just wander around to chase after some inspiration? Parc de la Ciutadella is, for sure, one of this kind of place. If I live in Barcelona, this park will likely be my ‘runaway haven’ of daily stress. I don’t know, it feels so comfy just to walk around and enjoy the company of the crowds. The voice of street musicians, performance of street artisans, people doing sports, reading books, family hangouts, amazing fountain monument, beautiful pond with boats…..oh I simply fall in love with this park 🙂

Parc de la Ciutadella

Parc de la Ciutadella

Not far from the park we can see Arc de Triomf, the Barcelona version of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. It’s like seeing its Paris sister painted with Catalan national colour of red and yellow. Afterall, this zone can absolutely be interesting choice for ticket-free tourist spot!

The Paris counterpart

The Paris counterpart

Montjuïc Hill

When I went to Edinburgh, I was fascinated by how the hilly contours of the city fits perfectly with its coastal line. Barcelona was, apparently, possess similar charm with the Scotland capital. This city was also surrounded by hills, and Montjuïc was one of them. This hill has actually been shaped with many enchanting buildings on it. My favourite was Palau Nacional (National Palace), in which you can watch fantastic Barcelona view from the top. Its design was simply fascinating; a palace on high place with gradual waterfall on the way up. Perfect photo spot 🙂

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The National Palace, home of National Art Museum of Catalan. However the entrance ticket was EUR 12, quite expensive I think, considering that all museums and national galleries throughout UK are completely free.

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Fabulous Barcelona from top

There were also many other interesting spots on Montjuïc Hill, such as the ex stadium for 1992 Olympic Games, a castle, Spanish village, parks etc. Walked around the hill can be quite exhausting but it’s totally worth it considering the wonderful spots–you can probably spend the whole day to explore each of them.

CosmoCaixa Science Museum

If it wasn’t because of Ramin’s idea, I wouldn’t probably end up in this place. Why would one go so far to such a romantic city like Barcelona only to visit science museum…? 😛 But apparently this museum was being underrated. It’s actually pretty impressive spot! Well, especially if you love science of course–like Ramin does. During the whole trip I’ve never seen him become sooo excited, so passionate as when he’s in CosmoCaixa. He enthusiastically explored those science models, and tried to explain to me how the model works………which made me look like an elementary kid tried to understand a professor’s lecture of Physics theory 😛 I was enjoying the moment though 🙂

Nevertheless, the museum was great and some of the models were really worth it. My favourite was the tropical rain forest imitation! It’s totally awesome, something you can’t find in other science museums (oh like I have visited so many :P) I just wonder how they brought up all the vegetations and well, eventhough I’m not sure if some of the fishes actually live in real rain forest river, afterall the whole design was fairly attractive. There are also aquarium and planetarium. CosmoCaixa is, I think, a perfect place for family recreation with kids. The entrance ticket was also quite cheap, like EUR 4.

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Tropical rainforest imitation: top view

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Tropical rainforest imitation: side view

Flamenco Dance

‘To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love’ (Jane Austen)

Under the dim light of Los Tarantos bar, three men were sitting on the chairs; a guitarist, a percussion player, and a clapper-vocalist. The audiences filled up the room, took their silence as the show was about to start. When the sound of guitar strings reached our ears, a slender woman entered the stage. Her frilly dress swayed beautifully as she moved her ankles. Loud applause soon filled in the air, welcomed the performers with excited feeling. This was it, a Spanish Flamenco 🙂

Flamenco was actually an Andalucian gypsy tradition. I have wondered about watching Flamenco since the Cordoba visit, but apparently the show was quite expensive (like EUR 25). Fortunately we found an affordable one here in Barcelona, only EUR 10 for around half hour performance. The seat was limited but luckily we came just in time to get one, eventhough it was in the back row. I was, uhm, quite short to look over other audiences’ heads on the front seats so I kept straining my back to be able to see the performance clearly.

Shot of stage

Shot of stage

The woman, she danced so brilliantly that I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her ankles, her feet moved so fast; each slams fitted in harmony with the music beat. It’s like watching ‘ladylike’ version of  tap dance, which I believe took more effort since you have to do it with high heels and under long tight dress.

In contrast with typical red colour associated with flamenco, the dancer’s frilly dress was black with big yellow polkadot accent. She occasionally swayed the dress with her hand, revealed her agile skinny legs. As the show reaching its peak, the guitar and percussion beat got quicker, the vocalist shouted and clapped louder, and the dancer moves were getting incredibly vivacious. Her facial expression reflected her impressive effort as I can see the sweat streaming down her skin. We were so absorbed by the show, as if the whole energy was transferred and the room was heaten up. It was totally unforgettable moment!

The dance came up in two parts in which the woman dancer had duet with a man, and when she danced solo. She changed her dress between the parts and while waiting for her, the guitarist played an absolutely stunning piece of Spanish instrumental. Overall this show was very very good value performance, but still, I will not refuse the next chance to enjoy Andalucian Flamenco in Granada 😉

Barcelonetta Beach

Visiting Barcelona certainly isn’t complete without going to the beach. Unlike most of British beach, Spanish beach is of course that kind of ‘proper beach’: blue water, white sand and sunny sky. And rows of tanned bikini bodies. Barcelonetta were also completed by diverse range of restaurants and bars along the shores (eventhough the seafood ones were quite costly).

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Breezy breezy beach

Plaza de Catalunya

It is the heart of Barcelona city so of course we must come here! 😉

Senorita!

Ola Senorita!

Barcelona was, after all, a bit like Spanish version of Edinburgh; only with a lot more lively atmosphere and of course a far better weather 😉 Stunning architectures, strong art and cultural nuance, also hills and beaches in-one. Three days were absolutely not enough to reveal all the beauty of this city. If I have a chance, definitely I’d be very willing to explore this wonderful city again and again! 😀

 

*) This post is part of my Euro Trip series. Barcelona, 8-11 September 2015.