EUROPE, CITY, GETAWAY / NOVEMBER 28, 2015
HOLA BARCELONA! 5 DAYS IN BARCELONA, SPAIN
Our plane descended with the sun and we stepped out into a beautiful Barcelona evening. It was seven o’clock and the night was just getting started. We had no intention of adjusting to a new time zone on this short holiday. We had no meetings to make, no routine to hold and, without children, we could sleep and wake whenever we felt like it. Barcelona proved to be the perfect destination for us: The Catalan lifestyle of late nights, late mornings and mid-day naps matched our internal West Coast clocks.
Our first few moments in the city were beautiful and poetic. The memory plays in my mind like a short film. We had barely dropped our bags when an old friend called and said “I’m nearly there. Come downstairs, I’m taking you out!” We reversed face down the winding staircase and outdoors onto our narrow lane in El Raval. The air was still and hazy, blurring the colored lights at the wine shop across the street. We paused to take it in: the cobblestone sidewalk beneath our feet, a patch of green trees boxed by a row of motor scooters, a black leather jacket holding a glowing cigarette. The sound of someone singing opera pricked our ears, only to be momentarily forgotten when a young man on a skateboard glided into sight. Tall and balletic, he handled a bottle of wine like a baton, swinging it up and down and up again, his outstretched arms fully encircling his head. He was dancing with a wine bottle! As he passed by and disappeared around a corner, we keyed back in again to the music, which was louder and approaching us from the opposite direction. An old man on an old bicycle, his mouth wide, was singing his heart out. Hello Barcelona!
Our friend rolled up with a smile and we sped off toward a speakeasy for the city’s best “Gin Tonics.” I always say that no one appreciates old friends as much as me, but this is especially true when one of them hands me some icy Hendrick’s with cucumber after a transcontinental flight and then feeds me Pimientos Padron at his favorite neighborhood brasserie. We talked until two.
Our days were blissfully similar. We woke in the afternoon and strolled to a coffee house to sip café cortado like locals and chat with hipster patrons. Handsome young men sporting thick dark beards and women with rolled and pinned hair sat clustered around newspapers and Macbooks. We would continue on a while later, stopping for drinks or Catalan small plates as we weaved through Barcelona’s labyrinthian Gothic architecture. At around seven o’clock most evenings, we were ready to pause and put up our feet. We returned to our rented flat, flung the shuttered windows open and sat on the sofa listening to the growing buzz of activity along the city streets below, which would eventually beckon us. And so we’d change our clothes, pull up an address on the map and set out to meet friends for the first course of the night: cocktails. Eventually we’d move to another location for cava, rioja and tapas, where we’d linger for hours over a table of conversation and laughter, always someplace fabulous. We’d then carry our party to a lounge, a rooftop bar or a jazz club. What could be better?!
Everyday in Barcelona was good and full of unexpected pleasures. It was also surprisingly relaxing, which I was reminded, real pleasure induces…and which is something of an art form in Spain.
we spent our days,
Sleepwalk to Caravelle for great coffee and a bite to eat. Weave through narrow streets onto Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous walking street. Cross Plaza Catalunya, landing on Passeig de Gracia, where Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló brightens the day. Also check out Gaudí’s La Pedrera (Casa Mila). Relax at the casual shop bar of La Cuina d’en Garriga. Score an invitation to dinner at a local friend’s house; handpicked Catalan delicacies include Jambon Iberico. Take a long stroll through Barrio Gòtico (Barcelona’s Gothic quarter), landing in a late night whirl of live music and dancing at Harlem Jazz Club.
Enjoy Calamares Andaluza and Alcachofas Frites at Bar Lobo. Grab a taxi to the leafy Park Güell and hike to the top for a view of the city and sea. Choose cocktails + tapas from the black board at Bar Mut. Move onto El Bitxo for marinated fish, but go after the audience has been seated at Palau de la Música Catalana across the street, or you’ll have trouble getting a table. Lounge under the stars atop the Grand Central Hotel (Skybar).
Get lost in La Boqueria; beg a seat at Bar Pinotxo. See Pablo’s collection of early artwork in an astoundingly beautiful medieval palace at Picasso Museum. Order lamb + rioja at the classic family restaurant, El Asador de Aranda. Laze around Barceloneta, enjoy the city/beach life. Go to Restaurant 7 Portes for a famous plate of seafood paella. Crisscross the Barrio Gòtico, ducking into buzzing lamp lit bars and late night restaurants all the way way home.
Pick a sunny outdoor table and enjoy market goods at Santa Caterina Market. Blow your mind wide open at Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece: La Segrada Familia. In Passeig de Gracia Pop into Pink Peony for a manicure and a glimpse of uptown luxury. Enter the oasis of Santa Eulalia Cafe across the street; try an artisan Beer like Casasola Benedictina. Stand shoulder to shoulder for famous preserved tapas at Quimet y Quimet. (We ran into the staff of Caravelle and hung out with them.) Save one of the best places for last: vibey uptown lounge Boca Grande (Boca Chica) serves the perfect Barcelona nightcap.
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