I’m not really sure where to begin with Barcelona. We arrived in this city with mixed expectations. I think Carolyn had some idea of how awesome of a place this would be, but I really had no idea what to expect at all. Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, one of Spain’s seemingly unwilling participants in the country, was obviously 100% different than Madrid before we even got off the bus. But let’s talk about the bus first.
An overnight bus trip is not a terrible thing. Eurolines buses seem to have free WiFi, comfortable seats, and stop every couple of hours so that everyone can pee. All in all, not a bad deal at all considering the ultra-cheap price of the transport. We arrived in Barcelona tired though, because sleeping on a bus is not at all like sleeping in a bed. The bus pulled into Barcelona-Sants bus/train station at 7:15am and we grabbed our bags and headed inside. We found the metro and bathrooms right away, and then decided that we were hungry enough to sit in at the McDonald’s for a bit (check-in at our hotel was 2pm…we had some time to kill.) A couple of McCafe con McLeches later and with fuller stomachs, we found our way over to Passeig de Gracia and walked about three blocks to our hotel. It was easy to find, and they were happy to take our bags so we could do a little sight-seeing without lugging all our crap around the city.
We saw nothing in depth for the next few hours, but we did enjoy scratching the surface of just how beautiful this city is. Not just beautiful in the sense that there’s lots of greenery and blue skies and it’s clean, but beautiful in that everything has been done with a really artful purpose. The architecture here is unbelievable. It’s so varied that your brain kind of wants to explode as you set your eyes on each different building. The most famous buildings here are the modernist masterpieces of Gaudi and his contemporaries, but even the run of the mill buildings are gorgeous. It seems like there isn’t a facade that isn’t painted, covered with mosaics, or otherwise altered to be more beautiful. That’s the thing here. Making things more beautiful.
You probably already know this, but some of the most important and significant artists of the twentieth century are from Catalonia. One look around and you can tell that this is a place where people really care about how things look. Everything has been deliberately designed to catch your eye in some way. The urinals in the bathroom are shaped in a very modernist way. Seriously. The bathroom door at the McDonald’s is almost unrecognizable with its Cubist influence. The Gaudi buildings, well, they’re simply amazing. I don’t want to overuse superlatives, but holy hell, the man was a genius. He used some really out-there ideas in his designs and then made them somehow work. I had no idea that his contribution to La Manzana de la Discordia was supposed to look like it had been built out of dragon bones, but somehow when Carolyn read that line of the guidebook my brain said “see, I told you it was dragon bones.” His masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, the still-under-construction cathedral is absolutely mind blowing. I’m not one to have an emotional reaction when I see something pretty, but entering that cathedral was absolutely, one-hundred-percent overwhelming. I couldn’t even speak. It LITERALLY took my breath away, and not in the asthmatic sense. Contrast that to the ancient Roman city walls and 13th century cathedral still standing in the Gothic Quarter and you’ve got a pretty amazing range of architecture to enjoy.
Now, to make it even more apparent how amazing this city is, let me tell you just a bit about the food. Spanish food is at the top of western cuisines for a reason. The food here in Barcelona has been unreal, and that’s not to knock the great stuff we enjoyed in Madrid. We’ve had all sorts of super simple dishes prepared in a rustic fashion that showcase an item in a way that gives the utmost respect to the ingredient and blows your mind at the same time. One item though has totally taken the cake. Spain is the home of the churro. You know, the star-shaped fried dough you can get at Costco or the movie theater or whatever at home. Here it’s a totally different thing. They’re perfectly crispy. I don’t know how else to describe it. I’m going to one-up that though. We found at two different Xurrerias chocolate covered churros. These are artisanal pastries dipped in artisanal chocolate. They are the best thing I have ever eaten in my life. If I could only have one bite of something before I die, I would want it to be a chocolate covered churro in Barcelona. I think Carolyn might actually say the same thing with no prompting.
I always compare the places I’ve been in my head, and my ultimate question is always “Charlie, could you see yourself living here?” The answer for Barcelona is an unqualified yes. I thought I’d like to live in Tokyo or Osaka, but Barcelona knocks those big boys down the list. I didn’t think I’d find a city (other than New York) cooler than Hong Kong, but Barcelona has it all and then some. I’m in love with this city, and I can’t wait to show you the things we’ve seen and enjoyed here. Stay tuned for a breakdown of our stay in Barcelona!