Barcelona is a cool beauty. A city borne out of exotic cultures with a gothic quarter that dates back to the Roman era, juxtaposed with some of the world’s most incredible modern architecture. Exciting and glamorous, a beloved destination for many travelers and yet, it was not as warm and convivial as I’d imagined it would be. It seemed impossible to get beneath the surface of this multifarious place. Still, we tried. We referred to our guidebooks and made plans, but in the end they were of no consequence. The city would reveal to us only what she wanted us to see.
It didn’t take long. Our first day began after dark, and as we headed into the heart of L’Eixample, extraordinary architecture spilled onto the streets around us. First, Fundacio Tapies, a museum and library upon which the striking Cloud and Chair sculpture sits like an apparition (and was an odd foreshadowing of what was to come), then Gaudi’s Casa Batllo housed on the corner of Arago and Passeig de Gracia, amongst mosaic covered benches and gorgeously ornate lampposts designed by Pere Falques. We had landed in Wonderland.
On sidewalks tiled by Gaudi, we wandered until we found Laie Libraria Cafe, a restaurant located on the second floor of a bookstore. It was 9pm, about an hour shy of prime dinner-time in Barcelona and probably the only reason we were seated fairly quickly. Considering that it had been about 12 hours since our last meal, the quality of the food was almost of no importance, but we got lucky. Our meal was a somewhat hearty, if interesting, fusion of flavors inspired by different regions in Spain and, more importantly, the Rioja was perfect.
The evening rounded out in our hotel neighborhood, at a bar called Outside. A late night place, the bartenders drank more than the customers and kept our glasses filled with cheap Spanish wine until our tastebuds finally protested. To cleanse our palates, we grabbed a bottle of Cava from a bodega and ended the day at 4am, gazing at the lights and toasting the city from our balcony.
The next day opened slowly and we ventured out mid afternoon to Café Zurich, located at the top of La Rambla. A prime location for people watching, we thought we’d write while we sat and drank café con leche, taking in the sunshine and 60-degree winter weather. Instead, we were too stimulated by the city and the desire to keep moving, so we immersed ourselves in the crowds and walked La Rambla until we found Columbus and the sea. We picked through an open air market by the waterfront, a garage sale set under several tents, and I found stacks of old postcards from Spain and France written in the most beautiful handwriting. I was tempted to buy them all, at 3 euros apiece, but they seemed too personal. Stealing letters.
At sunset, we turned our backs on the Mediterranean and headed into evening, in search of tapas.