Barcelona – A Bustling Beauty To Behold, Jo Bayley in Spain

Gaudi-Parc-Guell-Lizard-BarcelonaEighteen years is just too long to stay away from, I’d have to admit, one of my favourite cities in the world!

Barcelona is a sexy, savvy and a little edgy, all the things I love in a destination.

Four nights in this bustling beauty were never going to be enough, but you always need to leave wanting more.

Like a lover waiting for the next tryst, she seduces you and just when you think you have got a handle on her, another surprise awaits.

Barcelona 4An easy journey by train from Paris Garde du Lyon station took us around 6 hours, in a well appointed train.

I love train travel in Europe, it is a brilliant way to get around and very comfortable.

What I love, is seeing how the scenery changes and it never ceases to amaze me that the difference is quite obvious once you have crossed the border, even without signs.

The general architecture and colours change, it is a feeling that I can’t explain.

Arriving at Barcelona’s busy Sants station we had to get our heads out of France and into Spain, which can take some getting used too, but we were up for the challenge.

El BornOur accommodation through airbnb was in the El Born district, which is kind of like the Surry Hills in Sydney, in Barcelona.

We loved staying in this old quarter of the Catalunyan capital, and Eva our host was wonderful!

A short walk to the metro, which like Paris metro, is very easy to use.

Just work out which direction your stop is and off you go!

Oh, and the lines are colour coded and ticket machines can be programmed in a few different languages to make it a smooth process.

We opted to buy a 10 ride pass, zone 1 for our days here. We used the metro constantly and felt very safe.

Like any big city, keep your wits about you and it shouldn’t be an issue.

So where do you start in this fair city? Well for us, eating is always a great option.

I had an excellent recommendation for a tapas bar called “Sagardi” which happened to be quite close to our home away from home. This is a Disneyland of delights, just take a seat and make sure you are hungry!

Jo at Sagardi in Barcelona

Enjoying my first night in Barcelona at Sagardi Euskal Taberna

Sagardi means cider in Basque, and it was flowing at a rapid pace. The tapas here was fresh and fabulous, we were like kids in a candy store.

Tapas is so easy, after you order a drink you receive a plate, then its up to you how much to eat.

All the pieces have a toothpick in them, you just pop these on your plate, and when you are ready for “la cuenta” or “the bill” the waitstaff count up the number of toothpicks and charge accordingly.

It’s an honesty system, but I believe it works brilliantly. No one wants bad travel karma, I know I don’t!

Tapas in BarcelonaHamTapas or pintxos as it is known in the Basque region is a great way to start the evening. The selection at Sagardi was second to none, the choices mouthwatering.

Paper thin slices of jamon, mini goats cheese with fresh herbs, a divine “party pie” size oxtail stew covered in mashed potato in a pastry case (just like our shepherds pie) and my absolute favourite of the night prawn croquette.

Not just any prawn, but this one was covered in cheese then wrapped in bacon, crumbed and deep fried, then topped with a mini pikelet.

Get out and keep them coming!!!

There were countless other gems and we were quite content to park ourselves at the bar until someone pushed us off and rolled us home!

All this food calls for serious walking, which is easy to do in this city.

We decided that the best option was the Hop On, Hop Off bus for 2 days. There are two different routes, so day one was the green route and day two, the orange route.

Our bus left from Placa Catalunya through Julia Tours, you can choose other companies, and I’m sure they are similar.

It is 10% cheaper to buy tickets online, so I would suggest doing so.

The more you save means the more you can spend on other very important things, such as food and shopping!

These buses are a great way to orientate yourself with a new city.

We decided to do one whole loop, then get off when it took our fancy.

tickets-tapas-bar-barcelona-3This year I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday in Barcelona, and my very clever husband secured us a table at Tickets, one of the hottest restaurants in town!

Bookings open two months prior to the date, at midnight Spanish time and sellout in no time.

How he managed that was very well timed on his behalf, and we weren’t disappointed.

Tickets 2At Tickets, you can either choose what to order, or be taken on an adventure by your waiter. We chose the surprise.

You will be asked if you have any dietary requirements and if there is anything you don’t eat, and when you are nearing full, let your server know!

tickets3Tickets is an Adria family restaurant, so think El Bulli creativity.

After all it wasn’t the number one food destination in the world year after year for no reason!

We start our adventure with a re-worked olive.” What do you mean?” I hear you ask.

Well imagine sliding a perfectly formed bubble into your mouth that dissolves instantly, with all the intensity of a green olive, just incredible!

Course after course just kept us enthralled with the flavour and theatre of the night.

One of our favourites was a cone of tuna sashimi.

It was put together right in front of our very eyes by one of the chefs. I could go on about every dish, but really, if you come to Barcelona do try to secure a table.

Tickets 4SteakTickets is a foodies heaven and worth every cent. After we had been there, the amazing food journey just kept rolling on.

On our third night we decided we needed a steak.

So it was off to Casa Paloma, a class act, stunning steaks of all varieties and accompaniments.

We both opted for fillet, mine with a delicious creamy mash and pearl onions on the side, for Ross it was all about his favourite sauce, Bernaise!

A mixed salad on the side and a tasty Rioja were the perfect addition. “And for dessert?”

I hear you ask, well two perfect quenelles of superb raspberry sorbet ended a brilliant meal.

Lunch at La Boqueria Markets, is touristy, but a must.

The culinary delights on offer will have you salivating in an instant. Ham in a cone is an easy snack.

Thinly shaved jamon in a paper cone is great to nibble on as you peruse this world class food market at your leisure.

Don’t like jamon?

Well then there’s cheese or an array of different cured meats.

We had a great seafood lunch at Ramblero, and its fun being part of the chaos.

We also had the best patatas bravas of the tour here.

Jamon xSo, did we do anything but eat?

Yes, Barcelona is a city of visual delights and full of creativity.

If you love art and architecture this is the place for you!

Park Guell in Barcelona, SpainParc Guell is a fabulous showcase of their most famous architect Antoni Gaudi’s work, which can be seen throughout the city.

JB 2With views of the city, this park is filled with bright mosaics that bring a child-like playfulness to the landscape.

Another wonderful experience is the apartments Casa Milá, popularly known as La Pedrera which means the stone quarry, was built 1906-1912).

Casa MilaStylistically it is a celebration of the sinuous organic forms of art nouveau.

Start your tour at the top on the terrace and through the attic (which is like no other you have seen, then it’s inside to a perfectly preserved snap shot of life in the 1930’s.

This was a favourite of mine, and I must admit I’m a little jealous of the occupants of this apartment block in downtown Barcelona.

Tenants and businesses go about daily life, as tourists explore the top three floors of this art nouveau gem.

Gaudi in Barcelona InteriorBut a visit to Barcelona isn’t complete without experiencing Antonio Gaudi’s opus, La Sagrada Familia.

It was 1882 when Antoni Gaudi began building the Sagrada Familia Church, Barcelona.

This church designed by a man, who can only be described as genius, has to be seen to be believed.

Expertly designed, the light is spectacular.

Reflecting through stained glass, it is truly stunning.

We visited around 6 pm as the sun wove it’s magic and produced reflections of the spectrum of the rainbow, a beautiful and moving experience.

Unfortunately, Gaudi never got to see his life work to fruition, as sadly he was struck by a car and died soon after at a hospital for the homeless.

Attempts are being made to finish this grand church by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.

It is a feat of engineering and architecture, and I do hope that they reach their goal. As I last visited this church in 1997, much has changed.

It made me think that I must dig out my old photo’s to see just how far they have come! Will ask Carolyn if she will do a post on the brilliance of Gaudi.

Sun Bird by MiroThe Joan Miro museum is another favourite.

I was surprised, when I read my travel diary from my last trip, that I still have the same taste eighteen years on.

My favourite piece, then and now, is the “Sun Bird”.

A solid sculpture in marble, I just love the line and form.

The museum is housed in a modern building, a perfect setting for the art it houses.

And its location, next to the swimming pool made famous at the 1992 Olympic Games offers spectacular vistas.

There is so much to see and do in this sexy city, I have only touched the surface.

I urge you to experience Barcelona for yourself; let yoursel be seduced by Barcelona’s passionate pursuit of style.

jo-bayley-ciao-170Jo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

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