As small and walkable as Barcelona is, we didn't get to everything we wanted to see in the eight days we were there. Despite that, upon reflection, we felt that we really got a good feel for Barcelona. We took our time and planned one thing to do each day. After that, we walked around, looked for bars or restaurants we wanted to try, and let the winding gothic alleys take us where they may.
That being said, it wasn't as all as aimless as I make it sound. I spent hours pouring over Lonely Planet Barcelona, marking pages, and making notations on two sets of maps (which other people we met added to) beforehand. That way, when we started wandering, I could take out the map and say, "Hey there's a market/museum/bar I read about around here. Let's check it out." Another lesson learned from missing important sights on previous trips.
The center of our time in Barcelona, and the main artery of the old city, was La Rambla, a broad, tree-lined pedestrian walkway, which runs north from Port Vell to Placa Catalunya. From here, you can branch off into any of the many distinct neighborhoods that have developed over the years.
I was continually impressed with the old/new dichotomy everywhere in Barcelona, that showed up most evidently in the architecture. Here's another ancient Roman stone wall, and the more modern building that was constructed into it, like Legos.
This is the modern restaurant and office complex at Port Vell that also houses the Museu d'Historia de Catalunya, a fascinating trip through the history of Catalonia, and ancient Europe as a whole.
I think this was Carrer del Carme, or another nearby street that led to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona. There is no shortage of public art from all ages in Barcelona.
A moody street adjacent to La Catedral.
We spent a half day in the Maritime Museum, which had replica of of Don Juan of Austria's flagship. You could stick your head in through the bottom for a peek into life below the deck.
The museum was in the former royal shipyards, where the original flagship was built in 1571.
We also spent a long time in an extensive exhibit about the life and history of Charles Darwin. Naturally, of all the specimens, I was interested in the cat skeleton.
La Pedrera, one of Gaudi's most famous residences, was really worth visiting.
This work of art, an apartment building built in the early 1900s, was stunning from every angle. Here is a panorama of the roof.
One of the columns holding up the roof, seen from the attic.
So much to smile at in Barcelona. A dozen gelato places line La Rambla and serve up flavors you've never thought of until now.
One of my favorite experiences of traveling is trying food I couldn't get at home--like ham flavored Ruffles.
We loved working our way through some Basque-style tapas at Txapela, named for the black beret worn in the Basque country. Anson tried his hand at pouring the txakoli from on high, as the waiters do.
You may remember Marc, Anson's childhood friend, from the Mallorca blog. Well, we met up with his parents, Salvador and Francesca, for dinner one night and were treated to traditional and squid ink paella.
Bar Marsella, the oldest bar still operating in Barcelona, is famous for absenta (absinthe) and for being a haunt for Hemingway. Who could leave without giving it a try? We looked around at the well-worn bar, and imagined all the stories those walls could tell.
We ate not once, but twice, at Wok to Walk. Pick your noodle or rice, pick your veggies, pick your sauce, and watch them wok it right in front of you over the hottest flame you've ever seen.
Vila Viniteca had all the gourmet cheese, meat, chocolate, spices, oils and wines a traveler could ever want for. Next door is the related wine store, with an huge selection of wine and helpful, very knowledgable staff.
Stopping for a glass of rosé at a little cafe outside the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar we watched a wedding party and guests pose for photographs, while grandmothers minded small children and pretty girls checked their make-up. It was a scene of daily life we could have observed anywhere, except we were in Barcelona. That's really the magic of travel.
We went to La Cerveteca, one of the few craft beer bars in Barcelona, three times before it was actually open. Judging by the crowds that appeared within minutes of opening, they only need to be open a few hours a day to pay the bills. As we experienced in Rome, craft beer is just beginning to emerge in Spain, and we love to see the similarities and differences in beer culture. For the most part, this friendly pub could have been interchangeable with any in the U.S., with the exception of the beers, of course.
What else did we consume? Lots of cava sangria, a uniquely Catalan, and much more refreshing, version of sangia.
Another thing to love about Barcelona--it is very affordable compared to the other big cities in Europe. The bill for a glass of cava, a glass of wine, and a 1/2 liter of sangria? About $16.
Saving the best for last--Anson asked me to marry him on the rooftop bar of the beautiful Hotel Espana. Of course, I said yes! Now we just have to figure out where to get married...