It’s not everyday you go out for a birthday brunch with friends and end up with flight tickets to Barcelona and Berlin but occasionally an impulsive moment (fuelled by bottomless prosecco and the odd Jaegerbomb or two) can lead to wonderful things.
So a few days later and a false start (our taxi never arrived) my husband and I headed off to Gatwick to meet up with a group of friends. Well, when I say friends I’d definitely met one or two of them more than once. Checked in and with only carry-on to worry about we headed to the gate (via the bar for more prosecco and jaeger) and took off for our whistle-stop tour of Barcelona.
With no luggage to wait for at El Prat airport we were soon AirBnB bound. We would have found the apartment much sooner had the street numbers been in any sort of coherent order. Number 7? Oh yes right next to number 22. However, after several minutes of confusion and general bafflement we found the right gothic apartment block. We were just off Plaça Reial and within jumping distance of La Rambla we really couldn’t have based ourselves in a better location, especially with only a few hours with which to explore the city.
Before that though, the growl of our tummies suggested that lunch was definitely the first port of call. We meandered through Plaça Reial admiring the stunning architecture and dodging the many restaurant and bar touts trying to coerce us into their establishments. Safely out of the tourist trap we looked for a truly authentic Catalan cafe. Unfortunately our attempts at finding the delectable delights of northeast Spain were thwarted when the boys saw the Guinness sign. Alas our first Spanish gintonic was destined to be in the local Irish bar.
Thoroughly sated we headed La Rambla, the main street in Barcelona which boasts a pedestrianised central strip which is over a kilometre long. It starts at the Christopher Columbus monument and Port Vell and leads you all the way to Plaça de Catalunya, a large square in central Barcelona that is generally considered to be both its city centre and the place where the old city and the more modern 19th century city meet, There’s always life on La Rambla, it’s full of street performers, musicians, magicians and lots of lively bars, cafes and shops. The architecture along this main road is genuinely breathtaking at times.
After a good couple of miles of walking and sightseeing we headed back to base to get changed and ready to see what Barcelona’s nightlife had to offer.
Once the sun had gone down, the Gothic Quarter was where we headed to. We stopped en route at a couple of tapas bars for a delicious Rioja or too and some nibbles. Once in the Gothic Quarter we were spoilt for choice with bars and restaurants everywhere we looked. We ended up in a cocktail bar called Negroni’s who are famous for the delicious orangey cocktail. Several negronis and a lot of dancing later we headed home.
We saw the sex museum en-route (Museu Eròtic de Barcelona) and emboldened by the alcohol, we headed in to see what it had to offer. There are over 800 exhibits which include paintings, photography, sculptures and inventions. As a bonus, they give you a glass of champagne to walk about with which was a nice touch.
Once awake and full from the Irish breakfast (back at the Irish bar again) we headed towards Barcelona’s most famous building, the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s still unfinished cathedral.
Whilst strolling along Passeig de Gracia we saw more of Gaudi’s masterpieces, Casa Mila and Casa Battlo.
The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones) and looking at it you can see why. You can go and tour all of the building but as time was tight we pushed on for the cathedral.
We arrived at the Sagrada Familia and were blown away by it’s sheer magnitude. Although widely called a cathedral, in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop.
Construction of Sagrada Família commenced in 1882 and Gaudí devoted his last years to the project. By the time he passed away at the age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and has an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death. That really gives new meaning to the term “Cathedral Thinker”.
It was a glorious Sunday so we grabbed a beer in the courtyard outside the basilica and took in the view. Before we knew it, our time in Barcelona was almost finished. We leapt in a cab and briefly stopped to collect our belongings from the apartment and then carried straight on to the airport. All of us glad that drink took hold of our impulses at the birthday brunch.
48 hours in Barcelona – done!
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