Continued: more highlights from my weekend in Barcelona with Daniel.
Experiencing a Fútbol Game
It’s undeniable that Barcelona loves its fútbol team.
I’ve never been an avid follower of any sport, but Daniel has spent the better part of his life as a diehard fan (of the Wizards and other DC teams), worked what almost constitutes an unpaid full time job as our university’s newspaper’s sports editor, played college basketball as a practice player (technically earning the right to call himself a collegiate varsity athlete, woot), and put many hours into playing the beautiful game and being a personal coach for yours truly. All in all, we even each other out in the sports fan department and were ultimately both excited to go to a Barcelona game…
…which is nothing compared to some of the regular fans. When Messi scored his first goal, the crowd chanted his name, and people were actually bowing to him. As a team, I can see why they have accrued such a loyal and world wide following – their playing seemed to fall somewhere between artistic and unreal. Daniel and I commented to each other that it almost seemed like the players had magnets in their feet, because their control of the ball, both individually and when passing, was unbelievable. With a final score of 6 – 0, Rayo Vallecano didn’t stand a chance. (Apologies to Kate for cheering on Real Madrid’s rival.)
A Gaudí-filled City
An inescapable fact of exploring Barcelona is that Antoni Gaudí had a major hand in sculpting some parts of the city. The most famous may be the Sagrada Familia, a towering church that has yet to be finished. Because of the construction and the sheer size, I had trouble getting a photo I was happy with – so while I’m waiting for some friends/photographers to get back to me about permission to use their work, I’ll leave you with an unashamedly touristy picture of us blocking most of it and send you here if you actually want to see more of it. In fact, with the internet you can see even more of it than I did, since we decided to pass on waiting in line (it wrapped all the way around the block) and just admire from the outside.
Overall, the giant structure stood out immensely, even in the entire skyline from distant lookouts around the city. Besides being generally impressed, I also couldn’t help but think of drippy sand castles every time I caught another glimpse of it.
Notably, for me, the architecture exists in harmony with the natural landscape. We didn’t see the (allegedly) most impressive parts since we stuck to the free areas, but from afar it looked like that section was more colorful and full of tourists.
Another prominent feature of the park are these merchants, who stare hungrily at the tourists’ purses while promising “great quality” and “very beautiful” souvenirs. While we were wandering past some street musicians and half a dozen of these vendors, we were surprised to see every single one of them scoop up their wares and disappear off of the main road. It only took another moment for an explanation to follow – in the form of a police patrol car passing by. Before the police had even gotten out of sight, the merchants rematerialized to pop open their umbrellas full of earrings or unroll blankets of scarves and continue as if nothing had happened.
We also visited the Casa Batlló and finally decided to pay to see the interior of some of Gaudí’s work. The building has an eclectic collection of shapes, colors, and textures, and Gaudí’s control of light and marine-inspired forms made me wonder if the effect of the building ever would have worn off of its former inhabitants.
Picnicking in the Sunshine
Reminiscent of Spanish food in general, the food in Barcelona wasn’t too much of a change from Alicante. Two of the larger, more well known markets are La Boquería and La Mercat de la Santa Catarina. While the bustling crowds and open stalls of fresh fruit, fish, and everything in between aren’t quite a novelty any more, I found it interesting that there were bars where you could sit for a bite or drink. The fruit juices weren’t bad, either!
Rollin’ like the Spaniards, Daniel and I ate bocadillos for lunch one day, having picked up meat and cheese at a convenience store (often called chinos), a tomato at a fruit stand, and a bar of french bread at a panadería. Including a drink each (Instead of my usual choice of water, I splurged on a coconut juice when I saw the same brand from home!) we each paid around three euros for this typical Spanish picnic, and we got to enjoy the sun while we munched.
We dined on another specialty of Spain, pinchos, at La Tasqueta de Blai while wandering around Poble Sec.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Weltz
Similar but not the same as Spanish tapas, these small servings are usually pierced (hence the name, which comes from “pinchar”) with a cocktail stick to hold the top part to the bread base. Customers serve themselves and later pay for the number of sticks they’ve accumulated.
And that’s a wrap!
That’s all for now on Barcelona – time to catch up on some other trips! In case you’re curious for more, during my pre-BCN research, I came across this article by Roads and Kingdoms. After a weekend of exploring and both following and not following some of its advice, I’d say it gives a good peek into what Barcelona is like.
In summary, Barcelona is a big city, and I left feeling as if I had seen quite a lot – but still only scratched the surface. Perhaps another trip is in store for the future.
Special thanks to Meritxell for all of the Barcelona recommendations!