A few years back, I was inspired to create a list of 101 things that I wanted to do before I left the planet. Year by year, I keep checking things off... make my own pasta in Rome, Ski in Colorado, Have a baby. This week I checked off another - I took a stroll down La Ramblas in Barcelona!
Barcelona is a beautiful city that sits right on the Meditteranean on Spain's North Eastern Coast. It has that classic European charm and that undeniably relaxing Spanish vibe.
Downtown Barcelona is only about a 20 minute cab ride from the airport. My cab driver was friendly, but did not speak a word of English. So, make sure that you know at least a few lines of conversational Spanish. My ride cost about 20 Euros ($28 US), but for only around 4 Euros there is a bus right outside of the terminal that will take you downtown.
For this trip, the crew and I were staying at the Silken Ramblas, located only steps from the famous La Ramblas. La Ramblas is a street filled with cafes, shops and some of the most vibrant street performers I have ever seen. This is the perfect place for people watching and a must-do when in Barcelona. Be sure to stop into the Mercat right in the center of La Ramblas to see some of the freshest produce, meats and other foods from the local vendors.
On this trip, I was working with Alex Boylan, one of our best Travel Journalists. Alex has traveled the world on his show Around The World for Free and he is also a past winner of the Amazing Race. So, I knew that traveling with Alex was sure to be an adventure.
Our first stop was to a typical tapas bar to learn the art of small plate dining. One of the locals guided us to a place that they claimed to have the best tapas in town - Cerveseria Catalana. We enjoyed a few sample tapas - a bruschetta with prosciutto and cheese and then a salmon ceviche. The dishes were fresh and simple and the prices were reasonable.
We then headed up to Park Montjuic to get a bird's eye view of the city. The best way to get up to the top of the mountain is to take the Teleferic de Monjuic, a gondola that will lift you "ski resort" style up to the fort that sits atop Montjuic. At around 8 Euros for a round trip ticket, this is a fun way of seeing all that Barcelona has to offer.
I celebrated my birthday that evening in Barcelona with some fisherman's paella and some nice Spanish wine. After a long say of shooting, we headed to dinner at 9pm and we were alone! Book a reservation at 10 or 10:30pm if you want to eat with a crowd of locals.
The next day we toured the beautiful Park Guell in the heart of Barcelona. This park was commissioned by Eusebi Guell and was designed by Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi's whimsical approach to architecture can be appreciated around every corner of the park. Journey through the gingerbread looking gate houses and head up the almost crooked stairs to a large plaza where you will find street performers, locals and tourists all enjoying the shade from the hot Barcelona sun. The park also features shaded pathways and flintstone style arches where you will find people relaxing, reading, or enjoying the many street artists that line the paths.
Only a few minutes from Park Guell is the amazing La Sagrada Familia where you can see Gaudi's most famous piece of art that is still under construction to this day. In fact, after a century of buidling, most people think that the church is better left undone. The building is ornate and my favorite part was the crucifix located on the back side of the cathedral. Be sure to stop and really look at all of sculptures that are embedded into the facade.
For our second night in Barcelona, we made our way down to the Barcelona Seafront for dinner and some cocktails. This is the most popular place on the weekends - so expect a crowd and plan to make reservations at one of the many restaurants. Remember to book late or you will be eating alone! A popular wine to order with dinner is a Rioja or take a splurge and try one of their yummy mojitos. Be careful though, the rock sugar they use is super sweet and it will make you forget just how much alcohol you are throwing down.
In all, Barcelona was a charming city that was filled with good food, warm people and a relaxed culture. Everyone we met had a "Don't worry... you are in Barcelona" attitude that just forced you to slow down and take it all in. It will also seduce you into many evening cocktails and long nights with friends. They really want you to rest all day so that you can party with them all night.
Next Stop on this trip - Brugge, Belgium where I explore the art of making fine Belgian chocolates.